Climax Community: Definition & Example

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  • 0:00 A Climax Community Defined
  • 0:20 How Does It Work?
  • 1:30 Examples
  • 2:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

In this lesson, you will learn about ecological communities that have reached a point of equilibrium. Though rare in nature, these communities are unique because they are so well established that they exhibit very little change.

A Climax Community Defined

As an ecological community develops, it goes through a series of stages called ecological succession. Succession is a process that usually begins after a significant disturbance or extinction of an existing community. However, succession can also occur in areas that have never been colonized before. A climax community is an ecological community that has reached the final stage of ecological succession.

How Does it Work?

During succession, a community starts from a point where pioneer species colonize a new area. During this time, there is widespread growth of these quick-growing species. If this new development is in an area that has never before been colonized, this is called primary succession. If the colonization occurs where an area has been so severely disturbed that the original community no longer exists, this is called secondary succession.

After this initial colonization, other larger and longer-living species begin to join the community. There may be many successional changes after initial colonization.

While the successional environment becomes best suited to the species currently in the community, the community becomes stable and reaches ecological equilibrium. This is the point where other species are likely inhibited from entering the community because it does not provide suitable resources and habitat. The community is considered a climax community once it has reached equilibrium, and the environmental conditions and species composition do not change very much.

Examples

Though a true climax community is difficult to achieve in nature, there are a few examples we can observe. The Sonoran Desert, which is present in both the United States and Northern Mexico, is one example. This ecosystem community is one of the largest and hottest deserts in North America and is home to hundreds of animal species and thousands of plant species. Many of the species found in this desert are very uniquely adapted to and thrive in the harsh conditions found there.

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