Ecological communities change through time and space. In particular, many plant commities follow relatively similar temporal successions in different places, owing to the sequential changes in the importance of different ecological processes and key species. In this paper from Sergio Chozas we study how the differences in the suitability of the local climate for the two keystone species of a shrub community cause changes in their successional state. In particular, we studied the xerophytic shrub communities growing on the inland dunes of Southern Portugal, which are characterized by a succession between two thorny scrubs, from the colonizer Stauracanthus genistoides, to the dominance of Ulex australis in the more mature communities. These sandy systems are widespread in southwestern Iberian Peninsula, so there are many places were these communities grow. Studying such geographical variability allowed us to find that their successional state is related to factors such as the bioclimatic suitability of these two species, coming from Environmental Niche Factor Analyses, or the story of management and disturbance of the different areas. This implies that, although successional processes may work in similar ways in different areas, their degree of development depends also on the individualistic responses to the environment of their keystone species, thus reconciling the two classical views on communities proposed by Clements and Gleason.

You can read the article at, and follow Sergio’s thread on this paper in his twitter account.