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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Keystone Species

Try balancing on one foot. You may do it well on first try. At my age, part of my daily exercise routine is to alternately stand on one foot along with getting on the floor and getting back up. That balance improves my overall functioning. A keystone species works the same in the functioning of an ecosystem. The loss of a keystone species changes the dynamics of an ecosystem much like losing your balance affects your day to day activities.

As ecosystems are stressed by human activities, there is a greater need to protect keystone species. A keystone species protects an ecosystems health by it's activities. The keystone species is usually a predator.

Coyote in forestWhere I live, coyotes are considered a problem and there is no limit on how many people can hunt. However, coyotes do have their benefits. They are very adaptive animals and are found in urban areas such as Atlanta, GA.

Coyotes keep the population of rabbits, mice and other small animals down. On the sad side, they love cats. Near my home there have been some short-lived cat colonies. They were short lived in that coyotes love to eat them. I have one cat who lives in the house for obvious reasons.

It sounds cruel that the coyotes eat the beautiful bunnies, rascally squirrels, harmless field mice; but, eat of these species can overpopulate and become a problem. And this goes back to balance. When a population overpopulates they can destroy their own food supply and make room for invasive species that would not fill the void.

There are other predators present such as the bobcat, fox and a few bears in the Southern pine forests. Move to rivers and creeks and you will find alligators.

When sea otters were over hunted in the Pacific Northwest, their food source the sea urchin overpopulated. The sea urchins ate the kelp forests underwater which provided food and protection for many species. The kelp forest ecosystem was unstable and began disappearing. Fortunately, sea otters have made a comeback.

Hummingbirds are a keystone species in the Sonoran desert. Their feeding activities pollinates many desert plants that would not have a pollinator otherwise.

Although they are herbivores, elephants are a keystone species to the African Savannah. They eat and pull up the acacia tree. Otherwise the trees would grow until a forest occurred which would be detrimental to the many migrating grazing species such as the wildebeest, antelopes and zebras.

I've taken some of this information from the following National Geographic link.
http://education.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/keystone-species/

19 comments:

  1. When I lived in Alaska, the wolves would come closer to civilization and devour the pets too. Interesting about the elephants and the acacia tree. Thanks for visiting today.

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    1. Alaska is a great place to observe nature. There is still plenty around.

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  2. Great blog with lots of awesome information. Have you read Neil Gaiman's 'The Price'. Cats are amazing creatures. :) (as are Coyotes, but I mean, keep keeping your cat inside.)

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    1. I love cats too. I don't think we appreciate cats and our companion animals enough. I read the story. It is a good one.

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  3. My tenant on our property on acreage has lost about four of her cats. She did not bring them in at night. I was quite attached to some of them. I would shudder every time I heard the coyotes howl. My two favorite cats disappeared after we had to move temporarily to another house while I recovered from surgery. They used to hang out on our porch to greet us every time we came back to the house. About a year ago they were no longer there. I'm still sad when I go home to get something and they aren't there.

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    1. When I first moved to a suburb of Atlanta, people would want to look at my toy poodle. They were hoping it was theirs. They all had the same story how they put their dog out and it just disappeared. Coyotes.

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  4. The only knowledge I had of wolves, before reading this great post, was from watching Dancing with the Wolves. But even then, I tended to concentrate more on the Kostner :) So thank you for educating me :) I love visiting each day.

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    1. Costner is pretty hot. Much better to look at than wolves.

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  5. I never gave any thought to cats until I took in a homeless, scared, skinny cat.
    They definitely have an aloof personality all of their own.
    Thaks for the information on wolves and coyotes.

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    1. I'm a cat lady. They are just so cool. However, I got seven dogs in my household and it would be me waiting on them. The little lap dog I got would not tolerate it.

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  6. So interesting how nature balances itself out. We have coyotes behind our house that eat the cute little bunnies.

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    1. I had one of those huge yellow labs. The vet was impressed with her breed, she was so big. She ate bunnies and told the coyotes to kiss her rump. She was powerful and the sweetest.

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  7. Fascinating post, Ann.. I love how each ecological system needs another to balance themselves out. We are all so connected to one another.
    Many Blessings,
    Lori

    My A2Zs @ As the Fates Would Have It & Promptly Written
    Follow Me (Ravyne) Twitter|Facebook

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    1. Everything is connected. Thanks Ravyne.

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  8. When we lived in California, coyotes were everywhere. People had to keep an eye on their dogs, especially small dogs. At night we could hear them howl because our house was near a hiking trail and open sagebrush area.

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  9. Fascinating! It's all about balance!

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  10. I like the way you integrate your natural environment into science lessons.

    Rhonda from AlbomAdventures.com
    One of Alex's ninja minions

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