Patterns and processes of initial terrestrial-ecosystem development

Wolfgang Schaaf, Oliver Bens, Anton Fischer, Horst H. Gerke, Werner Gerwin, Uwe Grünewald, Hartmut M. Holländer, Ingrid Kögel-Knabner, Michael Mutz, Michael Schloter, Rainer Schulin, Maik Veste, Susanne Winter, Reinhard F. Hüttl

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Ecosystems are characterized as complex systems with abiotic and biotic processes interacting between the various components that have evolved over long-term periods. Most ecosystem studies so far have been carried out in mature systems. Only limited knowledge exists on the very initial phase of ecosystem development. Concepts on the development of ecosystems are often based on assumptions and extrapolations with respect to structure-process interactions in the initial stage. To characterize the effect of this initial phase on structure and functioning of ecosystems in later stages, it is necessary to disentangle the close interaction of spatial and temporal patterns of ecosystem structural assemblages with processes of ecosystem development. The study of initial, less complex systems could help to better identify and characterize coupled patterns and processes. This paper gives an overview of concepts for the initial development of different ecosystem compartments and identifies open questions and research gaps. The artificial catchment site "Chicken Creek" is introduced as a new research approach to investigate these patterns and processes of initial ecosystem development under defined boundary conditions. This approach allows to integrate the relevant processes with related pattern and structure development over temporal and spatial scales and to derive thresholds and stages in state and functioning of ecosystems at the catchment level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-239
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Artificial catchment
  • Microbial succession
  • Pedogenesis
  • Soils
  • Vegetation succession


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