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keystone species

Keystone Species
Image: National Geographic

Keystone Species

The balance of an ecosystem depends on its keystone species. While species within an ecosystem rely on each other, the keystone plays a vital and unique role — without it, an ecosystem might eventually cease to exist.

Meet some keystones, ranging from delicate hummingbirds to African elephants.

National Geographic
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Prairie Dogs: Keystone Species

Prairie Dogs: Keystone Species

Prairie flora and fauna are closely associated with prairie dogs, who plow the soil as they build their towns. Discover more about the role of this industrious keystone species. More...

Video
SCETV
Alaska’s Sea-Otter Decline Affects Health of Kelp Forests and Diet of Eagles

Alaska’s Sea-Otter Decline Affects Health of Kelp Forests and Diet of Eagles

When the number of sea otters — the keystone species — fell in the Aleutian Islands, bald eagles had to change their diet. Follow the ecological chain reaction of ocean and land species linked through a marine food web. More...

Article
U.S. Geological Survey
Keystone Species: Sea Otter

Keystone Species: Sea Otter

Hundreds of years ago, the sea otter was hunted almost to extinction. Fishermen saw big changes in the ecosystem. Investigate how one species affected the others in its habitat. More...

Article
Exploring Nature
Knowledge Project: Keystone Species

Knowledge Project: Keystone Species

Keystone species maintain the structure and integrity of their community. Research the case of gray wolves and what happened in their absence. More...

Article
Nature Education
Profile: Robert Paine

Profile: Robert Paine

Meet zoologist Robert Paine, who coined the term “keystone species.” An expert in nature's interconnections, his research resulted in one of the most important principals of modern ecology. More...

Article
University of Washington
Sonoran Desert Keystone Species

Sonoran Desert Keystone Species

Desert plants can be keystone species if they modify their ecosystems in a unique way. Investigate how 4 in the Sonoran Desert fulfill this role. More...

Article
Pima County
Venkat Sankar: Google Science Fair 2013 Global Finalist

Venkat Sankar: Google Science Fair 2013 Global Finalist

Venkat is all for renewable energy — as long as it doesn't hurt endangered species. See how he used computer simulations to find a modified plant footprint that would reduce habitat loss for the giant kangaroo rat population. More...

Profile
Google Science Fair

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