NUÑEZ martin Andres
Invasive species and the cultural keystone species concept
Ecology and Society
Año: 2005 vol. 10 p. 1 - 4
The concept of the keystone species has been a transformative notion in ecology. Keystone species were originally narrowly defined to be those whose importance to community and ecosystem structure, composition, and function is disproportionate to their abundance. Even this narrow definition fostered great insight into the nature of particular ecosystems and of threats to them. However, in ecological circles the term came to be more casually used to mean any species that has a very large impact on the ecosystem, no matter how abundant it is, and this casual usage has led to attacks on the concept on the grounds that it is so vague that it is meaningless. The phrase has even been freely and loosely borrowed outside ecology; for example, it has migrated into business and economics. In a recent issue of Ecology and Society, Garibaldi and Turner tried to demonstrate the importance of another loose adaptation of Paine's concept of the keystone species, namely the cultural keystone species (hereafter CKS), for ecological conservation and restoration. They define CKS as species that are culturally outstanding and that characterize the identity of a cultural group. We believe that the CKS concept could hinder biological conservation if we consider how exotic species can influence human cultures.We applaud the attempts of Garibaldi and Turner to incorporate local people into conservation and restoration practices and to halt cultural loss, a distressingly common phenomenon in recent decades. However, even though conservation must obviously entail interaction with local populations, it is not necessarily true that human culture and natural ecosystems will both be preserved by the same activities. Each case must be examined critically. Otherwise, both goals, conserving ecosystems and cultures, could be negatively affected by a well-meaning proposal. Educating people about the problems that exotic species generate is essential for the success of any conservation program that includes the active participation of local people. With a deep understanding of the risks that exotic species entail for native habitats, the cultural keystone species approach for conservation could be a useful tool in the conservation arsenal.