Read this article to learn about 7 Successional Stages of Hydrosere !
It is succession occurring in the aquatic environment. Such a type of succession does not necessarily lead the aquatic communities toward the development of land communities.
If the body of water is large and very deep or very strong wave action and other powerful physical forces are at work, the succession results in a stable aquatic community in which any considerable further change is hardly recognizable.
Succession is recognizable only if the colonization of plant communities takes place in artificial small and shallow ponds, lakes, etc. where wave action speeds up the process by allowing the erosion of soil towards edge regions. In this way, the filling process also speeds up quickly and consequently the body of water disappears within few years time.
Fig. 7.1 illustrates the different types of vegetation at different depths in a pond; floating plants in the central region; rooted hydrophytes in shallow region, amphibious plants in the marginal mud and trees developing in dry habitat.
In a new and virgin pond hydrosere starts with the colonisation of phytoplankton and finally terminates into a forest (the climax community).
The process of aquatic succession completes in the following stages (Fig. 7.2):
1. Phytoplankton stage:
In the initial stage of succession algal spores are brought in the body of water. The simple forms of life like bacteria, algae and many other aquatic plants (phytoplankton) and animals (zooplankton) floating in water are the pioneer colonizers. All these organisms add large amount of organic matter and nutrients due to their various life activities and after their death, they settle at the bottom of pond to form a layer of muck.
2. Submerged stage:
The phytoplankton stage is followed by submerged plant stage. When a loose layer of mud is formed on the bottom of the pond, some rooted submerged hydrophytes begin to appear on the new substratum. The submerged aquatic vegetation develops in the regions of ponds or lakes where water depth is about 10 feet or more. The pioneers are Elodia, Potamogeton, Myriophyllum, Ranunculus, Utricularia, Ceratophyllum, Vallisnena, Chara, etc.
These plants form tangled mass and have marked effects upon the habitat. When these plants die their remains are deposited at the bottom of the ponds or lakes. The eroded soil particles and other transported materials are also deposited at the bottom. This gradually raises the ho t the ponds and lakes up. As this process of stratification progresses the body of water becomes more and more shallow, consequently the habitat becomes less suited for the submerged vegetation but more favourable for other plants.
3. Floating stage:
When the depth of water reaches about 4 to 8 feet, the submerged vegetation starts disappearing from its original place and then the floating plants make their appearance gradually in that area. In the beginning the submerged and floating plants grow intermingled but in the course of time the submerged plants are replaced completely. The most tolerant species in the area are able to reproduce and perpetuate. Their broad leaves floating on the water surface check the penetration of light to deeper layer of water.
This may be one of the main causes responsible for the death of submerged plants. Due to continuous interaction between plant communities and aquatic environment, the habitat becomes changed chemically as well as physically. More water and air borne soil and dead remains of plants are deposited at the bottom. Thus, the substratum rises up in vertical direction. Important floating plants that replace the submerged vegetation are Nelumbmm, Trapa, Pistia, Nymphaea, and Limnanthemum etc.
4. Reed-swamp stages:
When the ponds and lakes become too shallow (water depth one to three feet) and the habitat is changed so much that it becomes less suited to the floating plants some other plants which are well adapted to new environment will then come in .Under these conditions, the floating plants start disappearing gradually and their places are occupied by amphibious plants which can live successfully in aquatic as well as aerial environment Important examples are Bothrioclova, Typha, Phragmites (Reed), etc.
The foliage leaves of such plants are exposed much above the surface of water and roots are generally found either in mud or submerged in water. The foliage leaves form a cover over submerged and floating plants and thus they cut off light from the plants underneath them. Under such conditions neither submerged nor floating plants can survive. Further deposition of soil and plant debris at the bottom reduces the depth of water and makes the habitat less suitable for the pre-existing plants.
When the bottom reaches very close to the water surface many secondary species, such as those of Polygonum, Sagittaria, etc. make their appearance. Later, they also bring about such reactions by which the habitat becomes less suitable for most of the existing species, and consequently new successional step follows.
5. Sedge Marsh or Meadow stage:
The filling process finally results in a marshy soil which may be too dry for the plants of pre-existing community. Now the plants well adapted to new habitat begin to appear in the pre-existing community in mixed state. Important plants that are well suited to marshy habitat are the members of cyperaceae and grammeae. The species of sedge (Carex) and rushes (Juncus), species of Themeda, Iris, Dichanthium, Eriophorum, Cymbopogon, Campanula, Mentha, Caltha, Gallium, Teucrium, Cicuta, etc. are the first invaders of marshy area.
As these plants grow most luxuriantly in the marshes, they modify the habitats in several ways. They absorb and transpire a large quantity of water and also catch and accumulate plant debris and wind and water borne soil particles. Consequently a dry habitat results which may be totally unfit for the growth of normal hydrophytes. Gradually the mesophytes start appearing and after some time the sedge vegetation is totally replaced by them.
6. Woodland stage:
In the beginning some shrubs and later medium sized trees form open vegetation or woodland. These plants produce more shade and absorb and transpire large quantity of water. Thus, they render the habitat more dry. Shade loving herbs may also grow under t e trees and shrubs. The prominent plants of woodland community are species of Buteazon, Acacia, Cassia, Terminalia, Salix, Cephalanthus, etc.
7. Climax forest:
After a very long time the hydrosere may lead to the development of climax vegetation. As the level of soil is raised much above the water level by progressive accumulation of humus and soil particles, the habitat becomes more dry and certainly well aerated. In such a habitat, well adapted self-maintaining and self-reproducing, nearly stable and uniform plant community consisting mostly of woody trees develops in the form of mesophytic forest.
In the climax forest, all types of plants are met with. Herbs, shrubs, mosses and shade loving plants represent their own communities. Trees are dominant and they have control over the entire vegetation. Bacteria, fungi, and other micro-organisms are more frequently found in the climax vegetation. They react upon the habitat and make the soil rich in the organic materials. At the climax stage, a complete harmony develops between plant community and habitat.
It is now clear that whole sere is a continuously but gradually changing complex in which the changes are forced by biotic, topographic or climatic factors. It is very slow process that cannot be observed in nature. It may require thousands of years to reach the climax stage. One can however, observe the sequence of hydrosere as he moves in the lake or pond from the deepest region towards the shallower margin.