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Foundation Species

6 April, 2016 - 17:26

Foundation species are considered the “base” or “bedrock” of a community, having the greatest influence on its overall structure. They are often primary producers, and they are typically an abundant organism. For example, kelp, a species of brown algae, is a foundation species that forms the basis of the kelp forests off the coast of California.

Foundation species may physically modify the environment to produce and maintain habitats that benefit the other organisms that use them. Examples include the kelp described above or tree species found in a forest. The photosynthetic corals of the coral reef also provide structure by physically modifying the environment (Figure 19.24). The exoskeletons of living and dead coral make up most of the reef structure, which protects many other species from waves and ocean currents.

Figure 19.24 Coral is the foundation species of coral reef ecosystems. (credit: Jim E. Maragos, USFWS)