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Crikey! Crocodiles Can Climb Trees – Yahoo News

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Crikey! Crocodiles Can Climb Trees – Yahoo News.

Przewalski’s horse: 10 things you didn’t know about the last wild horses on Earth | MNN – Mother Nature Network

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Przewalski’s horse: 10 things you didn’t know about the last wild horses on Earth | MNN – Mother Nature Network.

Would You Ditch Your House to Help Out a Tiger? – Yahoo News

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Would You Ditch Your House to Help Out a Tiger? – Yahoo News.

Elephants can decipher human voices better than we can | The Verge

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Updates about conservation efforts of African elephants:

Elephants can decipher human voices better than we can | The Verge.

US bans commercial ivory trade – Yahoo News.

Movers, Shakers, and Habitat Shapers: A tribute to keystone species

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All species have an intrinsic value to them. However, from an ecological standpoint there are some species which are more valuable due to their effects on their ecosystems. This is not to say we should not appreciate all species or only work to conserve the “more important” species. The species I am referring to our known as keystone species; a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its habitat compared to its population size. So I would like to take a moment to recognize the function and value of those keystone species that help build and maintain ecosystems so all species in that system may thrive.

As an Africa buff the first image in my head when I think about keystone species is the African elephant, Loxodonta africana. These large pachyderms trample trees and shrubs as they forage literally beating the forests into submission to create open grasslands. This opening of savannas allows Africa’s ecosystems to support the vast herds of zebra, impala, and wildebeest that the continent is so famous for. In turn, greater prey abundance allows for larger numbers of predators and scavengers. Thus the sustainability of Africa’s ecosystems is largely dependent on elephants.

Here in the US one of our greatest examples of a keystone species is the gray wolf, Canis lupus. Before humans pushed wolves to the brink of extinction this species played a major role in keeping deer  numbers at sustainable levels. When the wolves were removed from most of their habitat range deer populations exploded. This lead to over browsing, essentially the deer ate themselves into starvation. Ecosystems such as Yellowstone were in noticeably poor health due to this overpopulation. I believe Aldo Leopold summed up this issue best when he said, “just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer.” It is for this reason wolves were originally reintroduced to many areas, so they may once again keep prey populations in check.

Keystone species are an important part of maintaining healthy ecosystems. Without them habitats would quickly become ill. However, this does not mean these species should be allowed to continue unchecked. Just as these species can build or maintain ecosystems they can also destroy them. Wolves can become too numerous and deplete prey species. If they become over populated elephants can completely remove all forests from an ecosystem and trample grasslands into bare dirt; leaving themselves and all other species which rely on these habitats starving and without shelter. As the ultimate keystone species it is our responsibility as humans to maintain balance. We must protect keystone species so they may thrive, but we must also be willing to knock their numbers back down when they become overly abundant.

Related readings:

Here’s What Might Happen to Local Ecosystems If All the Rhinos Disappear | Articles | Smithsonian.

keystone species – National Geographic Education.

keystone species (ecology) — Encyclopedia Britannica.

 

 

 

 

A Rebound for Some Wildlife in Europe – NYTimes.com

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A Rebound for Some Wildlife in Europe – NYTimes.com.

Marine species updates

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Below are a few links to news about conservation efforts for marine species.

Great white shark named Lydia becomes first known white shark to cross Atlantic | GrindTV.com.

Is whale watching with drones next big trend? | GrindTV.com.

Harbor Porpoises’ Remarkable Return – National Wildlife Federation.

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