Keystone species activity pdf

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A Tiger Shark swims along the bottom of the ocean in search of food in Exmouth, Australia. Tiger sharks weight between and 1,lbs kg and can live up to 50 years. Photograph by Adam GallashMy Shot. Preteach the vocabulary. Write ecosystemfood weband species on the board. Ask students what they already know about these concepts from science class, books they have read, or other contexts.

Write their ideas on the board. Then explain each concept to students:. Illustrate the concept of a food web. Help students make connections between these concepts and their surroundings. Make sure they understand that there is an ecosystem outside of the school that includes species and food webs.

As a whole class, draw a simple food web of local animals, such as mice, insects, snakes, owls, and any other species that live in your area.

Ask students to brainstorm what it might mean to be a keystone species. First, illustrate a keystone. Draw a simple, rounded archway made of stones on the board. Point to the topmost stone, the keystone, and tell students that the stone is important because it is holding up the arch; if taken away, the arch would fall.

Ask: How do you think keystone species got that name? What might happen if one of the species in a food web vanished? Have students brainstorm the possible effects of a keystone species disappearing. Possible responses may include:.

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Have students make a real-world connection by thinking about what would happen if one of the most important species in your area disappeared. Use the food web of local animals as an example. Students may not realize that they are part of an ecosystem too. Have them describe their ecosystem and draw a simple food web that includes them. An ecosystem is home to interconnected species that form food webs. A keystone species is a species that has a major influence on the structure of an ecosystem.

Its presence affects many other members of the ecosystem. The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited. Julie Brown, National Geographic Society.

Introduction to Keystone Species

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service.In this project, students will learn about keystone species to see how they have influenced their ecosystems. They will be introduced to them in class, then be given time to research specific keystone species of their choosing.

They will then organize their information into some sort of presentation, and present to the class. They will also analyze how you can consider humans to be keystone species in a one page reflection to be turned in with their presentation. Your Account. Summary In this project, students will learn about keystone species to see how they have influenced their ecosystems.

The goal of this activity is for students to 1 understand what a keystone species is and 2 analyze how humans affect their environment. They will also be learning more about research and presentation of ideas and information. Concepts that they will understand by the end of the project are: how ecosystems support organisms and how we can prevent some ecosystem damage through choices we make.

Level: Middle-High School level students Class size: Students Type: Project school days Materials Necessary: computer lab, research materials, possibly power point projector Concepts previously mastered: Students need to understand what species are and how species affect one another. They need to understand concepts of predator and prey. They need to understand evolution and that ecosystems can change over time.

keystone species activity pdf

Day One: Students will learn about ecosystems, keystone species, invasive species and resources. We will spend a good amount of time investigating what an ecosystem is and examples of many different types of ecosystems.

Keystone Species and Their Role in Ecosystems

We will discuss what a keystone species is and examples of keystone species. Day Two: Day two will be spent introducing the project to students. I would let them work in partners, but each partner has to do their own research notes page. I also think that the students must turn in a paper that explains what each partner is doing if they are going to divide the project up. They may chose to do a power point, a poster presentation or a paper. If they can come up with different ways to present their information, they may check them with me, then proceed to divide up their project.

They also need to pick a species that they would like to research. Some examples are beaver, elephants, sea otter, freshwater bass, prairie dogs, and star fish. I think it would be a good idea to make packets of information up that have to do with what ecosystem the animal comes from and other information about the animal for them to start reading through.

Day Three: Today is a research day. Students will get a sheet of paper to fill out using their packets and websites that ask directed questions, i. What was this place like before this animal moved in? How has it changed? How would it change if this animal moved on? Day Four: Research Day. Students will continue to work on their research. Research sheets must be turned in with works cited to the teacher today. As soon as these are checked, they may move on to organizing their information to be presented to the class.

Day Five: Students will be able to start or continue organizing information. This must be finished by the next week Shoot for having this day on a Friday.

Day Six: Presentations. Day Seven: Presentations. At the end of the project, individually assess students with a three paragraph essay that poses the question: It has been said that humans are keystone species.

keystone species activity pdf

Describe three reasons why you agree or disagree with this assessment.Jump to navigation. In the s, renowned ecologist Robert Paine disrupted a patch of Washington State coastline—and made a huge environmental breakthrough.

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In an effort to understand the food web in a tidal ecosystem in Makaw Bay, he removed all of a single starfish species in one area. Rapidly the entire ecosystem changed, leading him to the realization that certain species play outsize roles in the overall structure and function of their environment. While some creatures exert little influence on their ecosystem, others can topple a whole community of plants and animals with their absence.

Paine coined a term for these critical organisms: keystone species. A keystone species —which can be any organism, from animals and plants to bacteria and fungi—is the glue that holds a habitat together. It may not be the largest or most plentiful species in an ecological community, but if a keystone is removed, it sets off a chain of events that turns the structure and biodiversity of its habitat into something very different.

By keeping the populations and range of their prey in check, keystone predators, like wolves and sea otters, impact other predators as well as other animal and plant species farther down the food chain. Remove a keystone predator, and the population of creatures it once hunted can explode, pushing out other organisms and reducing species diversity. This domino effect is known as a trophic cascade. Keystone prey, which include animals ranging from Antarctic krill to Canadian snowshoe hares, have a big role to play in the ecosystem.

They serve as a critical food source for predator populations; moreover, they are resilient creatures, unlike some other types of prey species that are more susceptible to becoming rare or extinct within an ecosystem.

keystone species activity pdf

Instead of impacting food supply, beavers, African savanna elephants, and other ecosystem engineers create, modify, or maintain the landscape around them. They influence the prevalence and activities of other organisms and help define the overall biodiversity of their habitat.

Keystone mutualists are two or more species that engage in reciprocally vital interactions. The disruption of one species impacts the other and, ultimately, the ecosystem as a whole. Keystone species maintain the local biodiversity of an ecosystem, influencing the abundance and type of other species in a habitat. They are nearly always a critical component of the local food web. One of the defining characteristics of a keystone species is that it fills a critical ecological role that no other species can.

When comparing two stretches of shoreline—one from which he physically removed the sea stars and hurled them out to sea—Paine observed the huge influence on biodiversity that the starfish had on the landscape where they remained, despite being relatively uncommon. On tidal outcrops lacking the predatory sea star, mussels soon crowded out many of the 15 original species, including algae, limpets, anemones, and sponges.

Native to the northern Pacific Ocean, sea otters play a vital role in the health of coastal kelp forests. Sea urchins in particular graze on kelp and, without predators like sea otters to keep them in check, grow larger and more abundant.

Keystone Species 101

Fortunately, sea otters are voracious eaters with the ability to consume up to 25 percent of their body weight daily. Beavers are ecosystem engineers that dramatically reshape the physical environment around them.

The dams they construct flood the surrounding landscape and form a wetland habitat of ponds and marshy meadows that can support a rich concentration of animals and plants. Freshwater fish, insects, amphibians, birds, other animals, and plants, including threatened and endangered onesrely on wetlands for shelter, nursery habitat, and breeding and feeding grounds.

Beaver dams and the wetlands they create also improve water quality in streams, replenish underwater aquifersalleviate drought and water shortagesreduce flooding, store nutrients for plants, and reduce erosion of stream banks by slowing the flow of water.A keystone species is a plant or animal that plays a unique and 1 crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions. Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether.

A small number of keystone species can have a huge impact on the environment. A keystone species is often a predator. A few predators can control the distribution and population of large numbers of prey species. A single mountain lion can roam a Canadian forest area of hundreds of miles. The deer, rabbits, and bird species in the ecosystem are at least partly controlled by the presence of the mountain lion. Their feeding behavior, or where they choose to make their nests and burrows, are largely a reaction to the mountain lion's activity.

A keystone species' disappearance would start a 3 domino effect. For example, the population of deer or rabbits could explode without the presence of a predator. The ecosystem cannot support an unlimited number of animals, and the deer soon compete with each other for food and water resources. Their population usually declines without a predator such as a mountain lion. Without the keystone species, new plants or animals could also come into the habitat and push out the 4 native species.

Some species of hummingbirds are keystone species in the Sonoran Desert of North America. Hummingbirds pollinate native cactus. In areas of the Sonoran Desert with few hummingbirds, 5 invasive species such as buffelgrass have taken over the ecosystem.

The theory that the balance of ecosystems can rely on one keystone species was first established in by American zoology professor Robert T. Paine's research showed that removing one species, the Pisaster ochraceus, or the sea star, had a huge effect on the surrounding ecosystem. The sea stars are a major predator for mussels, so when the sea stars were gone, mussels took over the area and crowded out other species. In the end, the area had less 6 biodiversity than it had before the sea stars were removed.

The sea otter is another example of a keystone species in the Pacific Northwest. These mammals feed on sea urchins, controlling their population. If the otters didn't eat the urchins, the urchins would 7 consume the habitat's kelp.

Kelp is a type of giant seaweed and a major source of food and shelter for the ecosystem. Some species of crabs, snails, and geese depend on kelp for food.

Many types of fish use the huge kelp forests to hide from predators. Without sea otters to control the urchin population, the entire ecosystem would collapse.

Herbivores can also be keystone species.The elephants that live on the African savannah have a huge influence on their ecosystem. As their herds move across the savannah, they feed on trees, breaking them up, often by pulling them up by the roots and crushing them. Without this tree clearing, the savannah would quickly grow from grassland to woodland. The grassland habitat is the home of hundreds of species like gazelles, zebras, ostrich, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, wildebeest, meerkat, baboon, termites and dung beetles.

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They are not adapted for woodland life. All theses species depend on the African elephants to keep their habitat cleared and remaining grassland. Then there are species that feed on these grassland species like cheetahs, lions, hyenas, crocodiles, jackals, wild dogs, and vultures. These animals also depend on the African elephant to keep the grasslands open for their survival.

The African elephant is another important keystone species. What happened to the other species in the coastal waters when the sea otter was hunted almost to extinction: 2.

What was the balance between the American alligator, the gar and the game fish? How does the elephant keep the African savannah habitat right for the other animals living there?

When you research information you must cite the reference. Citing for websites is different from citing from books, magazines and periodicals. Author Last Name, First Name s. Additional significant descriptive information. Amsel, Sheri. Toggle navigation. What Causes It The elephants that live on the African savannah have a huge influence on their ecosystem.

How Does It Affect Us The grassland habitat is the home of hundreds of species like gazelles, zebras, ostrich, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, wildebeest, meerkat, baboon, termites and dung beetles. Citing Research References. Here is an example of citing this page: Amsel, Sheri. All rights reserved.

Keystone Species & their role in Ecosystem Restoration

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If you are unsure whether your use of site materials violates the exploringnature. Thank you for respecting copyright laws.Wildlands has re-introduced a number of different species onto Somkhanda Game Reserve.

In African Wild Dogs were introduced to fulfill the conservation objective of saving endangered species, and reintroducing endangered species into the system. Intact ecosystems perform many vital functions; air and water purification, turning decaying matter into nutrients, preventing erosion and flooding, and moderating climate. Some species are particularly important to the health and resilience of their ecosystems.

These are called keystone species, and their absence can greatly affect the entire system. Elephants, Lions, Vultures and even termites are examples of keystone species. As large predators, Lions are responsible among other things for keeping prey populations under control and removing sick, weak or genetically compromised animals from the system. Antelope and Zebra are grazers, and without Lions, or other large predators to keep numbers in check, overgrazing may occur. Without vegetation to keep the soil in place, the once lush plains could become desert.

Elephants also play an important role in maintaining the biodiversity of the ecosystems in which they live. By pulling down trees and opening up thick bush they form open spaces for travel and the extra sunlight allows grass to grow. In turn White Rhino and Buffalo maintain these diverse grasslands on which countless other species depend. Although termites are only a fraction of the size of some of these other animals, collectively their colonies play a vital role in nutrient cycling and maintaining soil health.

Many species, from Bats to Elephants, assist with seed dispersal within a system. Pollinators, such as bees, maintain gene flow and dispersal throughout widespread ecosystems ensuring plant diversity. Vegetation is the base of the food web. Extinction of one plant species may lead to the extinction of an animal species. Each species is interdependent on another to continue the life cycle, each contributes to ecosystem resilience. Today, Somkhanda is thriving, the ecosystem is being restored, and it is a privilege to witness.

The Importance of Keystone Species Intact ecosystems perform many vital functions; air and water purification, turning decaying matter into nutrients, preventing erosion and flooding, and moderating climate.

Related posts. Conservation Ambassador Pursuing a Career in Conservation.Keystone speciesin ecologya species that has a disproportionately large effect on the communities in which it occurs. Such species help to maintain local biodiversity within a community either by controlling populations of other species that would otherwise dominate the community or by providing critical resources for a wide range of species.

The name keystone speciescoined by American zoologist Robert T. Paine inwas derived from the practice of using a wedge-shaped stone to support the top of an arch in a bridge or other construction. The starfish Pisaster ochraceus is a keystone species in the rocky marine intertidal communities off the northwest coast of North America. This predatory starfish feeds on the mussel Mytilus californianus and is responsible for maintaining much of the local diversity of species within certain communities.

When the starfish have been removed experimentally, the mussel populations have expanded rapidly and covered the rocky intertidal shores so exclusively that other species cannot establish themselves. Consequently, the interaction between Pisaster and Mytilus supports the structure and species diversity of these communities.

In other communities in which Pisaster occurs, however, the starfish has little overall effect on the structure of the community. Therefore, a species can be a keystone species in some communities but not in others.

In some forest communities in tropical America, figs and a few other plants act as keystone species but in a very different manner from the starfish Pisaster. Such plants serve as keystone food resources. Figs bear fruit year-round in some of these forest communities, and a large number of birds and mammals rely heavily on this small group of plant species during the times of the year when other food resources are scarce. Without figs, many species would disappear from the community.

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