Exploring Keystone Species
This Click & Learn shows that keystone species exist across a variety of ecosystems and can exert their influence in different ways.
Keystone species are species that play an “oversized” role in their environment. The Click & Learn uses a map-based interface to highlight 15 different keystone species around the world from a variety of trophic levels and ecological roles — including predators, herbivores, scavengers, and ecosystem engineers.
The species featured are the African elephant, blue crab, blue wildebeest, cougar (puma), Eurasian beaver, gray wolf, Indian vulture, largemouth bass, leopard, mound-building termite, plateau pika, purple sea star, Samoan flying fox (fruit bat), sea otter, and shark.
Student Learning Targets
- Describe the critical role of a keystone species in its local ecosystem.
- Identify different ecological roles occupied by keystone species.
- Describe different ways in which keystone species affect their environments.
- Explain how the concept of keystone species can be used in conservation.
ecosystem engineer, environmental health, habitat, mutualist, population, predator, trophic cascade
Estes, James A., John Terborgh, Justin S. Brashares, Mary E. Power, Joel Berger, William J. Bond, Stephen R. Carpenter, et al. “Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth.” Science 333, 6040 (2011): 301–306. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1205106.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
AP Biology (2019)
ENE-4.B, SYI-2.B, SYI3.G
IB Biology (2016)
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 1.1, 1.11, 2.7, 9.10
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.I
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
2.1, 2.2, 3.4
Common Core (2010)
Vision and Change (2009)