Succow studied biology at the University of Greifswald from 1960 until 1965. Succow then worked outside the university, but nevertheless finished his Doctor of Philosophy thesis on moor vegetation in 1970.
His numerous publications are mostly devoted to the ecology of moorlands and his typology of moorlands is today used as a standard classifications strategy for moorlands. In 1997, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for his work, particularly his efforts to create nature reserves in Germany, Eastern Europe and Asia. He stayed at the University of Greifswald for another four years as scientific assistant.
When he openly sympathised with reform forces during the Prague Spring in 1969, German Democratic Republic officials pressed for him to leave the university.
He then worked in Mongolia for several months before becoming a scientific employee at the Department of Agrology at the Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the German Democratic Republic, a position that allowed him to write his habilitation, which in turn helped him become a professor at the academy in 1987. Foreign a short period in 1990, Succow was the vice secretary of nature, conservation and water of the German Democratic Republic. On the 12th of September 1990 Succow successfully pressed the Council of Secretaries of the German Democratic Republic on their last meeting before the German reunification to declare about 7% of the soon-to-be dissolved nation as national parks and biosphere reserves.
After the German reunification, Succow accepted a visiting professorship at the Technical University of Berlin. He then worked as a consultant for the state of Brandenburg as well as on an international level, for instance initiating seven National Parks in the country of Georgia.
He was hired as a full university professor for geobotany and landscape ecology and director of the Department of Botany and the botanical garden of the University of Greifswald in 1992.
After 1990, Succow did consulting work in a number of former Warsaw Pact countries as well as in Central Asia and East Asia resulting in the designation of nature reservations (including a number of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization world nature heritage sites) in Kamchatka, the Lena river delta, Karelia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Georgia, Russia and Belarus. Michael Succow is a scientific counsellor to a number of environmental organisations and institutions. 1997 Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm
2000 URANIA-Medaille für besondere Leistungen in der wissenschaftlichen Volksbildung
2001 Bundesverdienstkreuz (First Class)
2005 Order of Merit of the State of Brandenburg
2006 Rubenow Medal of the City of Greifswald
2015 Honorary German Environmental Prize by the German Federal Environmental Foundation.
President Lamarck Circuit, Greifswald, 1960-1965. President Center Working Group for Protection of Native Orchids, Berlin, 1966-1969. Regional representative for nature conservation Region Bad Freienwalde, Germany, 1969-1973.
President foundation council Michael-Succow-Foundation, Greifswald, since 1997. Member advisory committee Foundation Save our Future, Hamburg, since 1994, Nature Conservation Fund, Brandenburg, since 1990. Member Naturschutzbund Deutschland E.V. (vice president since 1990, Lina-Hähnle medal 1990), National Society for Nature and Environment (board directors 1974-1989), National Park Foundation Oder Valley (member advisory committee since 1990), Regional Society for Nature and Environment (president region Frankfurt an der Oder 1974-1989), Society for Nature Conservation (vice president since 1990), Michael-Otto Foundation (member advisory committee since 1993).
Son of; married Ulla Benthien, April 21, 1965. Children: Kathrin Succow-Hoffmann, Juliane.