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Keystone species

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Keystone species
November 11, 2010 09:02PM
Keystone Species
By: Stephen C. Wagner (Department of Biology, Stephen F. Austin State University) © 2010 Nature Education Citation: Wagner, S. C. (2010) Keystone Species. Nature Education Knowledge 1(11):3

A keystone in an arch's crown secures the other stones in place. Keystone species play the same role in many ecological communities by maintaining the structure and integrity of the community.

... Summary
The concept of keystone species was first proposed and demonstrated in the 1960s by the dominance of top-predator starfish in intertidal ecosystems. Keystone species are species that play a disproportionately large role in the prevalence and population levels of other species within their ecosystem or community. The recovery of the gray wolf after its eradication from Yellowstone National Park, almost ninety years ago, demonstrates how crucial keystone species are to the long-term sustainability of the ecosystems they inhabit. Most importantly, the preservation and restoration of keystone species is essential for maintaining and/or reestablishing the historic structure and function of the ecosystems they inhabit.

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