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A chronosequence (in forest sciences) is a set of forested sites that share similar attributes but are of different ages.[1] Since many processes in forest ecology take a long time (decades or centuries) to develop, chronosequence methods are used to represent and study the time-dependent development of a forest. Field data from a chronosequence can be collected in a short period of several months. For example, chronosequences are often used to study the changes in plant communities during succession.[2] A classic example of using chronosequences to study ecological succession is in the study of plant and microbial succession in recently deglactiated zones. For example, a study from 2005 used the distance from the nose of a glacier as a proxy for site age.[3]

A common assumption in establishing chronosequences is that no other variable besides age (such as various abiotic components and biotic components) has changed between sites of interest. Because this assumption cannot always be tested for environmental study sites, the use of chronosequences in field successional studies has recently been debated.[4]


  1. ^ Johnson, Edward Arnold (2007). Plant disturbance ecology: the process and the response. Academic Press. p. 5. ISBN 0-12-088778-9. 
  2. ^ Knops, Johannes M.H.; Tilman, David (2000). "Dynamics of soil nitrogen and carbon accumulation for 61 years after agricultural abandonment". Ecology. 81 (1): 88–98. doi:10.2307/177136. 
  3. ^ Tscherko, Dagmar; Hammesfahr, Ute; Zeltner, Georg; Kandeler, Ellen; Böcker, Reinhard (5 August 2005). "Plant succession and rhizosphere microbial communities in a recently deglaciated alpine terrain". Basic and Applied Ecology. 6 (4): 367–383. doi:10.1016/j.baae.2005.02.004. 
  4. ^ Johnson, Edward; Miyanishi, Kiyoko (13 March 2008). "Testing the assumptions of chronosequences in succession". Ecology Letters. 11 (5): 419–431. doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01173.x. Retrieved 27 May 2016.