The spatial patterns of functional groups and successional direction in a coastal dune community Academic Article uri icon


  • Various methods have been devised to classify plants into functional groups, yet little work has investigated how these groups differentially impact succession with spatially explicit mechanisms. In a sand dune plant community on Galveston Island, Texas, we categorized plants by their functional traits, mapped the topographical contours of the sand dunes as a first-order effect to describe the spatial distribution of environmental stress, and quantified the second-order within- and between-group associations of the plants within specific bands of these contours using Ripley's K analysis. We then quantified the influence of spatially explicit functional traits on the direction of succession over time. We found evidence that the spatial pattern of the plants at one time exerted an influence on the pattern of the plants at a later time, based on their functional traits, thereby influencing the direction of sand dune succession. This study describes the spatiotemporal mechanics that lie behind sand dune plant succession: a process that has been a classical example of facilitation for ecologists, a plant community that is at risk from global sea-level rise and hurricanes, and an important rangeland resource that is being restored around the world for its ecological, range production, and coastal protection value.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Feagin, R. A., & Wu, X. B.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Feagin, Rusty A||Wu, X Ben

publication date

  • July 2007