“Keystone species are those that have an extremely high impact on a particular ecosystem relative to its population.”
What are Keystone Species?
The removal of keystone species from a habitat results in a dramatic change in the habitat. It affects other species to the extent that they might even get extinct. These species affect the structure and function of an ecosystem and the plants and animal species residing in that ecosystem.
The prey-predator relationship is one common example of keystone species. The predators that attack the herbivorous species prevent the herbivorous animals from depleting the plant species from the ecosystem. Such species are called keystone species. In the absence of these species, the population of herbivores would increase drastically that would destroy the dominant plant species in the ecosystem.
Also Read: Endangered Species
Examples of Keystone Species
Following are the examples of keystone species:
Sea otters are responsible to keep a check on the population of sea urchins and thereby prevent the destruction of kelp forests caused by the sea urchins.
Alligators keep a check on the population of several species. They also make burrows to stay warm and when they migrate, the burrows get filled with water that can be used by different species.
Bees pollinate plants and help in their reproduction process. The plants provide shelter to these insects which are then eaten by birds.
Large Mammalian Predators
Large mammalian predators are keystone species for large ecosystems. They consume a wide variety of species and thereby help in maintaining a balance in the ecosystem. For eg., Lions, tigers, jaguars are a few large mammalian predators.
Sea stars feed on the mussels in the areas where there are no natural predators. If the sea stars are removed from an ecosystem, the population of mussels would increase drastically that would adversely affect the resources available to other species within the ecosystem.
Hummingbirds are responsible for pollination. New plant species take over at places with a low number of hummingbirds.
Tiger sharks keep a check on the population of turtles and dugongs which would destroy the sea grass. The fish lay eggs on the sea grass and their destruction would reduce the number of fish.
Also Read: Concept of Species
These were a few examples that would explain the meaning and advantage of a keystone species.
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