Great Basin Naturalist


A site in the Rocky Mountain subalpine forest zone with which a series of hypotheses concerning ecosystem succession was tested is characterized. Succession from herb-dominated meadows to climax forests of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir can follow at least four identified pathways. After fire, spruce and fir may reinvade a site directly, follow invasion by aspen, or follow invasion by lodgepole pine, the pathway depending on a combination of physical and biotic factors. In other cases, succession begins with long-established meadows which do not owe their existence to fire. In this latter pathway, aspen invades meadows by suckering and changes the environment near the soil surface so as to facilitate establishment of the climax tree species. The biota and soils of four characteristic seral stages (meadow, aspen, fir, spruce-fir) in this latter pathway are described.