Umbrella species, species whose protection serves to protect many co-occurring species, have been proposed as a shortcut for conservation planning. Potential criteria for selection of umbrella species include rarity, sensitivity to human disturbance, and mean percentage of co-occurring species. Using butterflies in montane canyons in the Great Basin (USA) as a case study, we examined correlations among those three selection methods. We also developed a new index that specifically ranks species according to their potential to serve as umbrellas for their taxonomic group. Different methods for prioritizing species generally produced divergent rankings. Although rare butterflies tended to co-occur with more species than widespread butterflies, rare species may be poor umbrellas because their distributions are too highly restricted and often cannot be influenced by managers. Umbrella species are useful in meeting certain conservation challenges, particularly prioritization of habitat remnants for conservation or other land uses. Our work demonstrates that a subset of a fauna may serve as an effective umbrella for a larger ecological community, and therefore play an important role in contemporary management planning.
Ecological Applications – Ecological Society of America
Published: Apr 1, 2000
Keywords: butterflies ; conservation planning ; disturbance sensitivity ; ecosystem management ; Great Basin (USA) ; indicator species ; life-history characteristics of umbrella species ; rarity ; specialization vs. rarity ; species ranking methods ; umbrella species, identification
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