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The prairie dog as a keystone species

By:
, , , and
Edited by:
John L. Hoogland

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Abstract

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.

Additional publication details

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