Foundation Species Matter


A hemlock stand studied by HFR researchers working in Connecticut during early infestation by the hemlock woolly adelgid (2002). Source: David A. Orwig, Harvard Forest
We are currently living through the sixth great extinction crisis in the Earth’s history. Ecologists and evolutionary biologists have documented that the unprecedented and rapidly accelerating loss of non-human species is the direct result of human activities: habitat conversion, over-consumption of resources, and worldwide introductions -- both deliberate and accidental -- of pests and pathogens. At the same time, ecologists are working to discover whether particular species provide unique services or if their functions can be carried out by other species. A number of species have been identified as foundation species -- species that create habitats for themselves and a wide range of other species, stabilize the environment, and uniquely provide or control ecosystem processes such as productivity and fluxes of energy, nutrients, and water.

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