Ecosystem Engineers, Keystone Species

  • Sanne de Visser
  • Elisa Thébault
  • Peter C. de RuiterEmail author


This entry focuses on two ecological phenomena. The first is “keystone species” which is defined by Paine 1 as a species (mostly of high trophic status) whose activities exert a disproportionate influence on the patterns of species occurrence, distribution, and density in a community. The second is the concept of “ecosystem engineers” defined by Jones et al. [2 as organisms that directly or indirectly modulate the availability of resources (other than themselves) to other species by causing physical state changes in biotic or abiotic materials.


Ecosystem Functioning Ecosystem Engineer Keystone Species Brushtail Possum Engineering Effect 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The proportion of possible ecological interaction links between species that are realized.

Ecosystem engineer

An organism that creates or modifies its habitat [19].

Ecosystem functioning

The way ecosystems work related to abiotic and biotic components, such as chemicals, water, soil, microbes, plants, and animals.

Keystone species

A species that has a disproportionate effect on its environment relative to its biomass (Paine 1995).

Trophic level

The position a species occupies in a food chain.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sanne de Visser
    • 1
  • Elisa Thébault
    • 2
  • Peter C. de Ruiter
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Community and Conservation Ecology groupUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.CNRS, UMR 7618 “Biogéochimie et écologie des milieux continentaux”ParisFrance
  3. 3.Biometris, Wageningen URWageningenThe Netherlands

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