Patterns of forest regrowth
Last year my predecessor in office addressed you forcibly upon the subject of Observation and Deduction. He made it clear to you that observation was the basic art of the ecologist. I am venturing this year to reinforce his argument with an attempt to furnish you with examples from one particular phase of a plant community with which you are all acquainted. It is perhaps one of the most remarkable paradoxes of ecological studies that, although most students admire and even revere a forest of some size and of great reputed age, little detailed and continuous attention is paid to its younger life phases.
You will find many treatises about the incoming of a forest to bared ground by way of a long series of vegetation of lowlier stature through long periods of time. You will hear frequent references to "invasion by forest" of artificial and even of natural grasslands. You will hear of many other phenomena and stages of forest growth in great detail. But of the fundamental, natural, though far from simple, procedure of regrowth of one forest community directly after an earlier forest community you will search almost in vain through whole libraries of ecological literature.