Major species refers to any animal, plant or other organism that provides primary food or income for humans. In the United States, several animals are classified as major species and subject to distinct government regulations.
Ecosystem keystone species are organisms that form the core of an ecosystem. Without their presence, things would shift drastically or even disappear altogether. Examples include corals which support large communities of marine life on Pacific Ocean reefs; Pisaster ochraceus sea stars on Tatoosh Island in Pacific Northwest that play a pivotal role in keeping mussels and barnacles away from Tatoosh Tidal Plain.
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Foundation species are those which create habitats, such as corals and grasses, or provide nutrients for animals to flourish. Many ecosystems rely on foundation species like savannas in Africa or tropical forests for their viability.
Animals such as the Siberian tiger are known as umbrella species due to their role as a keystone species within an ecosystem. The tiger provides essential nutrients to surrounding forests, making its presence highly valued by biologists.
In recent decades, we’ve seen an alarming increase in the number of species going extinct per year – particularly across Asia and other continents. This loss is creating ecological havoc around the world and poses serious threats to future generations.
Most of these losses are caused by habitat destruction and overhunting, but habitat fragmentation is also a significant factor, along with climate change’s effects.
Savannas are ecosystems composed of grasses, trees and grazing animals such as elephants. Elephants help keep the grass alive and provide nutrition for other wildlife while controlling tree population growth which keeps land from becoming overgrown and damaging.
Some savannas are managed as protected habitats under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These areas have been set aside to shield plants and animals from extinction.
Savannas can also be found in biomes, which are generally warm and dry with low rainfall.
Habitat management is essential in savannas, which feature dense grasses and trees. This keeps the ground moist enough for grazing animals such as antelopes and wildebeests to survive.
Due to the global decline of wildlife populations and other factors, conservation organizations such as The National Wildlife Federation and BirdLife International have emerged. These groups work hard to identify and safeguard endangered or threatened species around the world.
Under the ESA, thousands of species are listed as threatened and undergo conservation evaluations in addition to those already protected under the ESA. These assessments ensure no threatened species is overlooked; some evaluations may result in listing a species as endangered or vulnerable; in other cases, it could receive protection under the ESA as a candidate for extinction.