Sad news yesterday in the field of ecology. Robert Paine passed away at the age of 83. If you don’t know why it matters, Paine was the one whose research originally coined the term “KEYSTONE SPECIES” in the late 60’s. Our friend the beaver would be called this without him! Thanks Robin of Napa for sending the article. I can only wonder what our bracelets would have looked like without him!
Bob Paine, an ecologist who conducted seminal experiments along the coast of Washington state in the 1960s, pulling starfish from the rocks and tossing them back into the ocean to demonstrate the consequences of disrupting an ecosystem with the removal of a single “keystone” species, died June 13 at a hospital in Seattle. He was 83.
Dr. Paine was regarded as one of the most significant ecologists of his era, a scientific adventurer who trekked across wave-battered shores of the Pacific Northwest to observe, document and explain the forces that govern and sometimes upset the complex network of creatures in an ecosystem.
His concept of “keystone” species, named after the stone at the apex of an arch that supports the other blocks in the structure, refers most strictly to predators such as sea otters, wolves and lions with outsize influence on their communities. A groundbreaking idea when Dr. Paine introduced it in the late 1960s, the “keystone” species is today a fundamental of ecology textbooks.
Dr. Paine published his findings of the event, which he called a “trophic cascade,” in a now-classic article in the journal the American Naturalist, “Food Web Complexity and Species Diversity” (1966). Three years later, he introduced “keystone” species as an ecological term.
I actually had no idea that the concept of ‘trophic cascades‘ came first and from the same bright mind. Nearly everyone I meet trained recently goes out of there way to explain that the term ‘keystone species’ isn’t used much anymore and the field is more interested in ‘trophes’. Which, as it turns out, are all courtesy of Dr. Paine. Thank you so much for showing us the world and teaching us how it works!
Now I know we’re all feeling the burden of kit-season-without-kits of our own for the first time in a decade. So I thought I’d share a little Mountain House comfort with you for cheer. Caitlin was surprised that the beaver kit was out early an braver than his family, all of which Martinez has come to understand well over the years.