The prairie dog as a keystone species

By: , and 
Edited by: John L. Hoogland



The prairie dog has a pronounced impact on its grassland ecosystem (King 1955; Uresk and Bjugstad 1983; Miller et al. 1994; Society for Conservation Biology 1994; Wuerthner 1997; Johnsgard 2005). They maintain short vegetation by their grazing and by selective removal of tall plants and shrubs; provide shelter, foraging grounds, and nesting habitat for a diverse array of animals; serve as prey for many predators; and alter soil chemistry.

Do these impacts mean that the prairie dog is a keystone species? To investigate, we first scrutinize the definition for a keystone species. We then document both vertebrates and invertebrates that associate with prairie dogs and their colony-sites. We examine ecosystem processes at colony-sites, and then assess whether the prairie dog is a legitimate keystone species. Finally, we explore the implications of keystone status for the conservation of prairie dogs.

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title The prairie dog as a keystone species
Chapter 4
ISBN 9781559634977
Year Published 2006
Language English
Publisher Island Press
Publisher location Washington, DC
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 12 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Conservation of the black-tailed prairie dog: Saving North America's western grasslands
First page 53
Last page 64
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