On the nature of keystone species

Vanclay, Jerome K. (1999) On the nature of keystone species. Conservation Ecology, 3 1: .

Author Vanclay, Jerome K.
Title On the nature of keystone species
Journal name Conservation Ecology
ISSN 1195-5449
Publication date 1999-01-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
Volume 3
Issue 1
Place of publication Waterloo, ON, Canada
Publisher Resilience Alliance Publications
Subject 300803 Natural Resource Management
300805 Conservation
300902 Land and Parks Management
300804 Environmental Impact Assessment
Abstract There is an unfortunate tendency to nominate large and conspicuous creatures as likely keystone species playing pivotal roles in ecosystems. Particular favorites in the tropics include fig trees (Ficus spp.), large apes, and colorful birds, but such claims are rarely supported by empirical evidence. Khanina (1998) follows this trend, suggesting that "only trees can be considered as keystone species of forest communities (detritus ecosystems)." I am sceptical; I suspect that inconspicuous organisms may be the ultimate arbiters of ecosystem function and appearance. Mycorrhizae play a critical, possibly pivotal, role in many forests, and they and other fungi may be more realistic candidates for the title of keystone within forest communities. Similarly, experience in Australia suggests that insects such as the Cactoblastis moth (Cactoblastis cactorum) and insect vectors of Myxomatosis have a greater influence on pasture dynamics than do the more conspicuous herbivores. I suspect that the roles of most organisms in ecosystems may be matters of degrees rather than absolutes such as "pivotal" (and conversely, "redundant"). I advocate caution in promoting these concepts without further evidence to support such claims.
Keyword Keystone species
Ecosystem function
Ecosystem appearance
Organisms
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
 
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Created: Wed, 14 Jun 2006, 10:00:00 EST by Jerome K. Vanclay on behalf of Examinations