One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A plant community exhibiting alternating dominance with another in a particular area as a result of environmental changes; the area occupied by such a community.
Early 20th century; earliest use found in Frederic Edward Clements (1874–1945). Immediate origin uncertain; ultimately related to alternative, altern, etc. Perhaps from French alterne altern, although this appears to be attested neither as a noun nor in specific ecological use.
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