Ecosystem-level effects of keystone species reintroduction: a literature review

Sarah L. Hale, John L. Koprowski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The keystone species concept was introduced in 1969 in reference to top-down regulation of communities by predators, but has expanded to include myriad species at different trophic levels. Keystone species play disproportionately large, important roles in their ecosystems, but human-wildlife conflicts often drive population declines. Population declines have resulted in the necessity of keystone species reintroduction; however, studies of such reintroductions are rare. We conducted a literature review and found only 30 peer-reviewed journal articles that assessed reintroduced populations of keystone species, and only 11 of these assessed ecosystem-level effects following reintroduction. Nine of 11 publications assessing ecosystem-level effects found evidence of resumption of keystone roles; however, these publications focus on a narrow range of species. We highlight the deficit of peer-reviewed literature on keystone species reintroductions, and draw attention to the need for assessment of ecosystem-level effects so that the presence, extent, and rate of ecosystem restoration driven by keystone species can be better understood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-445
Number of pages7
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2018


  • ecosystem restoration
  • ecosystem-level effects
  • keystone species
  • population declines
  • reintroduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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