The main difference between keystone species and foundation species is that keystone species maintain biodiversity, whereas foundation species maintain the structure of the ecosystem.
Keystone species and foundation species are two types of species that serve as the basis for a community. Generally, the community is a complex entity characterized by its structure and dynamics.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Keystone Species
– Definition, Features, Function
2. What is Foundation Species
– Definition, Features, Function
3. Similarities Between Keystone Species and Foundation Species
– Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Keystone Species and Foundation Species
– Comparison of Key Differences
Foundation Species, Keystone Species
What is Keystone Species
Keystone species is one of the three types of species that occur in an ecosystem, maintaining biodiversity. Keystone species have a large effect on the natural environment. In an ecological community, this species critically maintains its structure. Keystone species was introduced by zoologist Robert T. Paine in 1969. He explained his observations and experiments regarding starfish and mussels, which are marine invertebrates. When he removed starfish from the area, the mussels population increased.
Furthermore, when keystone species are removed from the ecosystem, the population of the natural prey of that keystone species increases. Subsequently, this alters the composition of the species while reducing biodiversity. For instance, banded tetra is a keystone species and is a fish in tropical streams. It supplies all phosphorus to the rest of the community. Generally, the extinction of this fish species greatly affects the whole community. Other examples of keystone species include sea stars, wolves, sea otters, hummingbirds, flying foxes, mangrove trees, African elephants, and American beavers.
What is Foundation Species
Foundation species is another type of species in the ecosystem. Generally, it is a base or bedrock species that shows the greatest impact on the structure of the ecosystem. Foundation species are primary producers that bring most of the energy to the ecosystem. Moreover, these species occupy any tropic levels of the food web. Therefore, they can be either primary producers, herbivores, or predators. Paul K. Dayton coined the term foundation species in 1972. The main feature of foundation species is that they physically modify the environment to benefit other organisms.
For example, coral reefs contain photosynthetic corals. Although corals are not photosynthetic, they contain symbionts that undergo photosynthesis. Generally, symbionts live inside the body tissues of corals. This is also an example of mutualism. The exoskeletons of living and dead coral reefs make the structure for most of the other marine species. In addition to that, coral reefs protect many other species from waves and ocean currents.
Similarities Between Keystone Species and Foundation Species
- Keystone species and foundation species are two types of species that occur in the community.
- A species is an accumulation of organisms with common genetic ancestry.
- The three types of species are keystone species, foundation species, and invasive species.
Difference Between Keystone Species and Foundation Species
Keystone species refers to an organism that helps to define an entire ecosystem, while foundation species refers to the species that has a strong role in structuring a community.
Keystone species was coined by Robert Paine in the 1960s, while Paul K. Dayton coined foundation species in 1972.
While keystone species maintain biodiversity, foundation species maintain the structure of the ecosystem.
Keystone species have a more significant impact on all other species in the ecosystem while foundation species contribute to the creation and maintenance of a landscape in order to thrive by other species.
Moreover, keystone species strongly affect the composition of communities in the ecosystem, while foundation species physically modify the environment and produce and maintain habitats, benefitting other species.
Trophic or Non-Trophic
Keystone species are trophic and share a common collection of prey and predators, while foundation species are non-trophic and do not share a common collection of prey and predators.
Starfish, sea otters, hummingbirds, flying foxes, mangrove trees, African elephants, and American beavers are examples of keystone species, while trees in forests and coral reefs are examples of foundation species.
In brief, keystone species and foundation species are two types of species that occur in the community. Generally, keystone species maintain biodiversity, and they have a more significant impact on all other species in the ecosystem. Starfish, hummingbirds, mangrove trees, and African elephants are some examples of keystone species. On the other hand, keystone species affect the composition of communities. Foundation species change the environment and contribute to the creation and maintenance of a landscape that allows other species to thrive. Coral reefs and trees in forests are examples of foundation species. Therefore, the main difference between keystone species and foundation species is their influence on the community.
- (2020, July 30). 10.2: The role of species within communities. Biology LibreTexts. Retrieved March 15, 2023
- “Junior-Jaguar-Belize-Zoo” By Bjørn Christian Tørrissen – Own work (CC By-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
- “Sanc0063 – Flickr – NOAA Photo Library” By Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA – Own Work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
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