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Linking Keystone Species and Functional Groups: A New Operational Definition of the Keystone Species Concept

Robert D Davic, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency

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Abstract

The concept of the "keystone species" is redefined to allow for the a priori prediction of these species within ecosystems. A keystone species is held to be a strongly interacting species whose top-down effect on species diversity and competition is large relative to its biomass dominance within a functional group. This operational definition links the community importance of keystone species to a specific ecosystem process, e.g., the regulation of species diversity, within functional groups at lower trophic levels that are structured by competition for a limited resource. The a priori prediction of keystone species has applied value for the conservation of natural areas.

Key words

keystone species, competition, dominance, feeding guilds, functional groups, power laws, species diversity, biomass dominance
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087