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What is a Keystone Species?

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A keystone species is a species that is fundamental to the health of an ecosystem. In some cases, they are defined by their relative abundance in a region at the time that the area was in its pristine state. In other cases, a keystone species is identified by the role it plays in an ecosystem.


Predators, particularly apex predators at the top of a food chain, are often considered a keystone species as the keep the population of herbivores balanced.


Herbivores may completely transform a landscape. For example, elephants convert vegetation into manure and prevent large trees from growing. This is important to the health of a savanna.


Species such as bees that play a critical role in pollination or beavers that create lakes, ponds and swamps with their dams.
Overview: Keystone Species
A species that is critical to the health of an ecosystem in its pristine state.
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