Left alone most habitats in Britain will eventually turn into
woodland. Bare earth and rock, will first be colonised by mosses,
lichens and plants of sparse ground. Other flowers and grasses
will follow, with scrub and trees coming in afterwards. In
wetter habitats waterside vegetation is rapidly colonised by
As vegetation cover increases, there is a build up of soil
and nutrients and the early colonisers are overrun by more
vigorous plants. As tree cover increases this process accelerates
as woodland develops. The early stages of this process support
a rich assemblage of flower and insect wildlife which soon
disappears as more vegetation develops.
Invading scrub being removed from a quarry
floor by a youth group.
Before man had too much influence on the landscape the wooded
mantle of Britain is thought to have had many open areas created
variously by landslip, fire, wind and importantly by large
wandering herds of grazing wild animals such as deer. These
influences maintained areas large enough for wild flowers of
grassland to thrive.
Trees rapidly colonise marginal swamp.
Unfortunately in today's crowded country there is not enough
space remaining to let natural succession run its full course. Intervention
and management is needed to retain a mosaic of habitats
to support our rich wildlife.
The downside of natural succession, from a human point of view,
is that it can take some time for nature to soften the rough
edges left by quarrying activity. There are though several
ways that the initial stages of natural succession can be speeded
without too much detriment to the richness that results from
slow development. See creating
a diverse wetland and replicating
the limestone daleside.
Early colonisation of a quarry floor.