Ecologists have documented the process of plant succession for centuries, yet the successional patterns exhibited by microbial communities have received relatively little attention. We examine recent work on microbial succession and show how, despite some key differences, studies of plant succession can serve as a template for understanding microbial succession. We divide the broad range of patterns of microbial primary succession into three categories based on the source of carbon inputs and present conceptual models for each of these categories to explain and predict microbial succession patterns. We show how studies of microbial succession can lead to the development of more comprehensive ecological models of succession and improve our understanding of the processes that regulate microbial diversity in natural and man-made environments.
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