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What is the difference between keystone and dominant species in ecosystem dynamics?

Keystone species have a disproportionate impact on the ecosystem, while dominant species are the most abundant.

Keystone species and dominant species are both important in ecosystem dynamics, but they play different roles. Keystone species have a disproportionate impact on the ecosystem, despite not being the most abundant. They often have a critical role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem, and their removal can lead to significant changes. For example, sea otters are a keystone species in kelp forests, as they feed on sea urchins that would otherwise overgraze the kelp. Without sea otters, the kelp forest ecosystem would be drastically altered.

Dominant species, on the other hand, are the most abundant species in the ecosystem. They may or may not have a significant impact on the ecosystem, depending on their interactions with other species. For example, grasses are often dominant in grassland ecosystems, but they may not have a keystone role in maintaining the ecosystem. However, dominant species can still be important indicators of ecosystem health, as changes in their abundance can indicate changes in the overall ecosystem.

In summary, keystone species have a disproportionate impact on the ecosystem, while dominant species are the most abundant. Both are important in ecosystem dynamics, but in different ways. Understanding the roles of keystone and dominant species can help us better understand and manage ecosystems.

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