PartnerHacker Weekend 07/09: Beavers in Your Ecosystem

A quick recap of the PhD from this week:

Recently published:

Keystone partners

Well hey there fella.

I just discovered this concept in ecology.

A Keystone Species is one that,

has a disproportionately large effect on its natural environment relative to its abundance

In other words, a species that, though few in number, accounts for many of the main factors that allow the ecosystem and other species within it to survive and thrive.

Beavers are my favorite example.

Just a few beavers can create and aid several vast ecosystems. They create dams and canals which result in lakes and ponds and marshes. Their felling of trees and diverting of water - all done for their own basic needs - results in far-reaching effects that allow countless other species to thrive in the ecosystem.

Another definition of keystone species is,

a strongly interacting species whose top-down effect on species diversity and competition is large relative to its biomass dominance within a functional group.

Every species in an ecosystem has an effect on the whole, and removing or adding any will have trickle-down effects. But keystone species have dramatically outsized effects. Some so much so that if removed, the entire ecosystem would collapse and/or re-form into a totally different ecosystem.

Keystone species is a good framework to use when looking at your partner ecosystem.

Are there players whose presence is disproportionately responsible for the health and maintenance of the ecosystem? Sometimes, these can be players who aren't even formal partners in your program.

Given the limited resources available, how might you deploy them to identify and ensure the survival of your keystone partners first and foremost?

Who are the beavers in your ecosystem?

PS - One more though about motivation and incentives.

Beavers aren't consciously trying to manage the ecosystem. They are only seeking their own self-interest, well-being, and survival. There's a good lesson here.

Humans are capable of acting beyond their self-interest, but if you rely on your partners to consciously think about how to improve the ecosystem, it's a less resilient foundation than if the incentives structure is such that by seeking their own self-interest, they create benefits to the ecosystem as a whole. That's when a things are really humming.

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