Two years after the events of Generation I, our young protagonist returns to the esteemed island of Cinnabar only to find the place in ruins. A volcanic eruption has all but destroyed any sign of life or civilization on the island. People and Pokémon have fled for the Seafoam Islands, and the only sign of mankind’s reconstruction is a lone Pokémon Center. But when will Nature reclaim her territory and begins its own reconstruction. Chances are that she already has, the very literal seeds of her conquest were sown long before any human broke ground on the Pokémon Center. Although we may not witness it in the games, rest assured that the powers of ecological succession will restore Cinnabar to a flourishing paradise. Give or take a few decades.
At the risk of personifying Nature, ecological succession the process through which she reclaims lost territory or settles on new. There are two types succession, primary and secondary. In primary succession, Mother Nature is on the offensive, colonizing new territories that often devoid of vegetation and soil, just bare rocks and maybe cooled lava flows. Primary succession commonly occurs after a volcanic eruption, such as the one that took place on Cinnabar Island, as well as in areas where a glacier has just retreated, revealing what is often a bare lifeless layer of rock and stone.
To carry a weary metaphor, the first wave involves a hardy group of organisms called pioneer species which pave (or rather, un-pave) the way for later organisms by breaking down the rocky layer and establishing a thin layer of soil for which other more needy plants can use to dig their roots in and further the process. Abiotic factors (non-living components of an ecosystem) also play a part in eroding the solid exterior. Most pioneer species are organisms that require little or no soil to grow and are usually extremely resilient and adaptive, organisms such as lichens, fungi, algae, whose seeds can be carried by the wind easily and land in these decimated areas moments after the surface is exposed. Microorganisms begin cycling nutrients in the ecosystem to provide a basis for important biogeochemical processes, such as nitrogen-fixing bacteria which kick start the nitrogen cycle.
Over time, an ecosystem will form with increasing complexity. Larger organisms will move in and fill empty niches. Trees will take to the skies with a thick layer of soil to support them. This process can take as little as a few decades to up to millions of years depending of the severity of the disaster.
Secondary succession is often the quicker process, taking place in an area that has suffered a less catastrophic disaster in which substrate is left intact, such as a forest fire or human activity like deforestation. In these scenarios, soil and most of the other necessary components are still in place and thus the ecosystem can more easily recover.
Whether primary or secondary, ecological succession showcases the resiliency of life. Plethora of natural disasters and mass extinction events have tried to extinguish Earth of this unique phenomenon we call life, and yet every time Nature rebuilds itself and flourishes. Even if we are a blink in the evolutionary annals, there is something comforting in knowing that life itself will continue long after humanity has moved on, perhaps until the Earth itself is consumed by the Sun. In the end, life always finds a way.