One issue that Dan Zay pointed out in his earlier email regarded the concept of "succession".
I am flattered that he regards the EatonRapidsJoe readership to be sophisticated enough to absorb concepts that are more complicated than what are taught to college sophomores. The following essay is my understanding of what Dan Zay was trying to communicate. As always, all mistakes belong to me, the author.
Traditionally, "succession" was taught as if it were linear, and smoothly progressed along a preordained path. It is a train, locked to the rails moving at X rate of speed through the entire process.
The next step
|Everybody has seen one of these. We will use the bottom of this bottle to discuss "local minima"|
The next step in the evolution of our understanding of succession was to incorporate the idea of local minima.
|A dash of spray paint to make the shape of the bottom easier to photograph. Basically five depressions separated by five ridges that meet in the middle.|
|You can visualize the pea (or buckshot) moving from depression-to-depression as the bottle is disturbed. Once in a given well, it will tend to remain there until sufficient disturbance is exerted on it to move it.|
In spite of that self-reinforcing nature, there can be a mosaic of vestigial "legacy communities" hanging onto tiny fragments of habitat. Those legacy communities are genesis bombs that can repopulate the landscape if/when a mega-disruption occurs and drives the habitat to a new local minima equilibrium.
Some legacy communities are incredibly tenacious. Other communities, even if dominant, just seem to be waiting for the smallest of disruptions before tipping into a different equilibria. That is part of what makes the study of ecology interesting.
The political part
We see the same phenomena in human communities. Some of them are extremely resilient and hang on tenaciously. The Amish and Mennonite communities, for example. Other communities seem to show all of the stability of a willow tree in a windstorm, the children of the upper-middle class, for instance.
In some cases, the mosaic of smaller human communities are drilling holes in the bottom of our collective life-boat. Examples include the various entitlement classes:
- Banksters who are monetarizing all assets and trading on a billionth of a percent differences in overnight interest rates.
- Inner city dwellers with learned helplessness and non-functioning families
- Even us old folks who will collect $2 of payout for every dollar we (and our employers) put into Social Security.