These are species that detect minute changes earlier than others. It’s like the canary in the coal mine, more sensitive to changes than those around it. They detect both good and bad but are generally used for detecting bad changes to an environment.
The phrase indicator species usually refers to any species that provides some information about the status of an ecosystem. It is commonly used to describe the animals most sensitive to a certain change. These species provide an early warning system for the existence of some problem in the ecosystem that if left unchecked, could cause major disruptions. Amphibians are often seen as indicator species of pollution in stream ecosystems.
An indicator species can also be indicative of a certain type of environment. For example, a certain type of Agave helps define the Chihuahan Desert.
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