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Delayed Compensation for Missing Keystone Species by Colonization

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Science  06 Apr 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5514, pp. 101-104
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5514.101

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Abstract

Because individual species can play key roles, the loss of species through extinction or their gain through colonization can cause major changes in ecosystems. For almost 20 years after kangaroo rats were experimentally removed from a Chihuahuan desert ecosystem in the United States, other rodent species were unable to compensate and use the available resources. This changed abruptly in 1995, when an alien species of pocket mouse colonized the ecosystem, used most of the available resources, and compensated almost completely for the missing kangaroo rats. These results demonstrate the importance of individual species and of colonization and extinction events in the structure and dynamics of ecosystems.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed at Program in Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA. E-mail: morgan.ernest{at}ttu.edu

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