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Initially published in Plant Ecology, Oct. 2009, Vol. 204(2), pp. 217-230.

© Springer International Publishing AG. Part of Springer Nature.

DOI: 10.1007/s11258-009-9586-3


Plant colonization can be limited by lack of seeds or by factors that reduce establishment. The role of seed limitation in community assembly is being increasingly recognized, but in early primary succession, establishment failure is still considered more important. We studied the factors limiting colonization on the foreland of Coleman Glacier, Washington, USA to determine the importance of seed and establishment limitation during primary succession. We also evaluated the effects of seed predation, drought and existing vegetation on establishment. We planted seeds of seven species into plots of four different ages and found evidence that both seed and establishment limitation are strong in early succession. We also found that seed and establishment limitation both remained high in later stages of succession. Seed predation reduced establishment for most species and some evidence suggested that drought and existing vegetation also limit establishment. Because both dispersal and establishment failure restrict colonization in recently exposed habitat, late-seral forest species may have a difficult time migrating upward in response to global climate change.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.