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Name: Morgan
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: AL
Country: USA
Date: Summer 2010

Can an umbrella species be a keystone species, or a keystone species be an umbrella species?

A keystone species is one that plays a critical role in maintaining the structure of the ecosystem around them. An umbrella species. An umbrella species is one that conservations use to gain support to conserve that species, and in return it greatly helps the other species around it (those under the umbrella!). So, yes, they can be both. For instance, the lemurs of Madagascar are a keystone species (their feces excrete plant seeds which need to go through their digestive system to germinate) yet are also a umbrella species (if people work to save the habitat of Madagascar in order to save the lemurs, they are also saving many other species at the same time). Sometimes we also use the term "flagship" species. This is just a way of saying that we put the face of one animal (the lemur for instance) out to the public, even if they aren't the ones facing the biggest threat, in order that by saving habitat it will affect all the others involved.

Grace Fields

The answer to your question is yes, so let’s begin with some definitions. The term ‘umbrella species’ is most commonly used by conservationists discussing a species selected for making conservation decisions. An umbrella species generally shares a lot of living requirements with other organisms in its range – therefore making its preservation beneficial to many species. Meanwhile, a keystone species more specifically refers to a species that dramatically shifts an ecosystem if it were removed, even though that species may be only a small portion of the ecosystem.

Yes, in some cases it is possible for an umbrella species to be a keystone species and vice-versa. An example of this is the American Grizzly Bear. The Grizzly is a keystone species since its dispersal of nutrients from the ocean ecosystem (mainly of fish) to forest ecosystem plays an important role in that environment. Grizzlies are also classified as umbrella species since they have a relatively large range and are of the higher mammals. The preservation of this species would benefit other northern mammal species, and ultimately the whole ecosystem. Many conservation efforts have been directed towards the Grizzly Bear for both its standing as a keystone and an umbrella species.

Jane P.

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