Tidal zones are unique environments. Not quite land, not quite
sea, the inhabitants of tidal pools fight to survive between two
worlds. Tatoosh Island, located off the Washington Coast, is one
of the richest temperate tidal systems in the world.
Paine, a University of Washington zoologist, has visited Tatoosh
at least 12 times a year for over 30 years to study the natural
connections between the organisms that inhabit the intertidal
experiment Paine conducted with mussels and starfish since 1970
was ideal in demonstrating the principal of "keystone species,"
which holds that certain species are critically important to the
balance of an ecosystem.
discusses how all organisms are embedded in one
rich, interactive system.
showed that the population of starfish in the Tatoosh tidal zone
are critical in controlling the mussel population. In test areas
where Paine physically removed the starfish, mussels crowded out
most other life forms. Thus, the starfish is a "keystone species"
because it has a critical effect on the entire ecosystem. Without
the starfish, the biodiversity in the tidal zones of Tatoosh Island
would be radically different.
apply to plants and trees as well. Destruction of a certain tree
or plant can also alter the characteristics of an ecosystem. Scientists
understand how two or three species' affect each other but the
complex relationship of a whole ecological community is still
not completely understood. If human activity accidentally decimates
or completely destroys a keystone species in an ecosystem, the
imbalance could mean the environment could change drastically
to find out more on keystone species
To find out
ways to help keep our tidal zones in balance, visit: http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/waterandland/puget-sound-marine.aspx
let's visit the temperate
forests of Washington to understand
the important role of trees
in the Earth's biodiversity!