The role of ecological factors in controlling vegetation dynamics on long temporal scales

K. D. Bennett*, K. J. Willis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The pattern of change in the Holocene forests of Europe is outlined and discussed in the light of external and internal forcing factors. Forests are seen as non-linear, dynamic systems, that are, at any point in time, unique and changing. In the absence of human activity, potential forcing factors during the Holocene include (i) climate, (ii) soil development, and (iii) internal forest dynamics. Climate is influential through exerting control on the floristic pool from which forests developed. Current results indicate that the role of soil development is likely to have been minor, but may have slowed rate of invasion and increase of some mid- and late-Holocene forest dominants. Forest change following spread and increase then forces soil change. Internal processes of forest dynamics include competition among existing species, and interactions between existing species and potential invading species. The patterns of interaction may be detectable through rates of change and patterns of increase seen in pollen records. Such processes are seen as being the dominant influence on the pattern of change and the development of forest. Forested systems, such as those in Europe, are strongly influenced by historical events, such as the mid-Holocene decline of elm. Forest composition is likely to be similar, in the broadest terms, from one interglacial to another, but always to vary in detail. The interaction of individuals, populations and environmental variables ensures that, although deterministic, prediction of change will always be difficult.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-254
Number of pages12
JournalGiornale Botanico Italiano
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1995


  • Ecological factors
  • Temporal scales
  • Vegetation dynamics


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