What is a Keystone Species?
A Keystone Species refers to a species whose presence in an area is of great important for the structure, composition and functioning of a healthy ecosystem. A Keystone Species can be any living thing that has this ability such as mammals, plants, aquatic life-forms, anything! These are basically species that modify an ecosystem in a specific way which benefits biodiversity and the daily functioning of the ecosystem.
There are so much more Keystone Species than you would even realise – which contributes to how important biodiversity really is and why we should know about it!!
Some Keystone Species are; Praire Dogs, Sea Otters, Sharks, Sea Stars, Hummingbirds, Beavers, Bears, Elephants, and many many more!
Examples of Keystone Species:
The African Elephant has experienced a huge decline since the 1980s due to ivory poaching and habitat loss. The status of this species greatly varies across the continent with many of the remaining found in regions such as Botswana.
Elephants are Keystone Species because of their contribution to Africa’s rich biodiversity by helping to maintain suitable habitats for a huge range of other species within the ecosystem. Elephants can alter the landscape with their huge size and their feeding patterns as they create cleared pathways and gaps between high grasslands that allow smaller animals to travel around, graze and also encourage new tree generation in that area, promoting forestry growth – this vegetation growth also comes from Elephants dung (seeds that are present in the dung are placed in other areas of the environment and help increase plant-life).
- Youtube Video on Keystone Species
- National Geographic
- Nature.com info – Great explanation of Keystone Species!