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Term Keystone species
Definition

A species that has a disproportionate effect on its environment in relation to its abundance. Keystone species are critically important to maintain ecological balance and species diversity in an ecosystem.

Coral reef builders, such as the elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), are key species because thousands of other species depend on the habitat created by them. Considered to be one of the most important corals, the elkhorn used to also be one of the most abundant coral species in the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. Since 1980, however, 90-95% of the colonies of elkhorn have disappeared. The loss of the species is mostly due to a series of factors such as disease, coral bleaching, predation, climate change and damage by storms, which has greatly diminished the survival and reproductive success of the species.

The elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata).

 

Topic  BiodiversityProtected areas