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29.8.04

An Interesting Tidbit

Today I learned that medieval European peasants deliberately made use of "initial composition floristics"* succession. When they prepared a new farm field, they would sow acorns along with their wheat. That way, the oak trees would get a start during the few years that the farm was used, and be well on their way to producing forage for pigs once the field was left fallow.

*There are two major theories about ecological succession, i.e., the change in what organisms live in an area as it recovers from a disturbance. The classic view is called "relay floristics." Under this model, each generation of plants prepares the way for the next -- for example, sun-loving conifers rapidly grow up in sunny disturbed sites, but then are unable to reproduce in their own shade, so shade-tolerant deciduous trees take over. This theory was developed based on observations of farms that had been abandoned and allowed to regrow forest. In contrast, "initial composition floristics" theory claims that all of the plants that will live at a site are present from the beginning. Later successional stages are just plants that take longer to mature. So it seems that when farmers plan a short-term abandonment of a site, they establish an initial composition that will create a favorable succession.

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