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Support Your Neighbourhood Keystone Species

Stone masons use a keystone when they construct an arch. A keystone is carved so that it slips into the top of the arch and holds all the other stones in place.

In a habitat there are two kinds of keystone species. The first are the predators – carnivores – that keep all the other species in balance by eating the weaker creatures, usually herbivores. Good examples of keystone species include the wolf and grizzly bear. The second kind of keystone species are the eco-engineers who alter a landscape to make good habitat for other species to thrive. Beavers and prairie dogs are classic eco-engineers.

But keystone species do not have to be mammals – they can be birds, insects, fish, and reptiles too. 


  • Look around your neighbourhood and identify a keystone species. A good place to look may be a local wetland or meadow.

  • What do your keystone species need to thrive?

Photo 17.jpeg

photo by Katherine McManus

  • Plan how you can help make the habitat safer and stronger to support your keystone species.

  • Strategize how to get your neighbours on side and support your plan.

  • How can you publicize your plan? One idea is to create a poster and tack it onto your neighbourhood notice board or Facebook page.

If you do not live in an area where there is any wild habitat left, find out what keystone species used to live there – 100, 500, 10,000 years ago. What would it take to bring them back … including ones dangerous to people? What would be the positive, negative, and just-plain-interesting results?

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