The rapidly changing Arctic provides excellent opportunities for investigating primary succession on freshly deglaciated areas. Research on the Gåsbreen foreland (S Spitsbergen) traced the succession of particular groups of organisms and species, particularly lichens and bryophytes, and determined the effect of selected abiotic factors on this succession. Fieldwork in 2008, employed a continuous linear transect of phytosociological relevés (1 m2) along the foreland. Data analysis allowed to distinguish five different succession stages and three types of colonisers. Canonical correspondence analysis and a permutation test showed that distance from the front of the glacier and fine grain material in the substrate mostly influenced the distribution and abundance of vegetation, and the steepness of the moraine hills affected the colonisation process, mainly in the older part of the marginal zone.