Large carnivores are often used as focal species (indicators, umbrellas, flagships or keystones) in conservation strategies either aimed at conserving carnivores, the rest of the biodiversity that occupies their habitats, or both. We evaluate their suitability for these roles in the context of boreal forest biodiversity conservation in the muti-use landscapes of Scandinavia. The enormous conflicts, especially with livestock, that carnivores cause in these areas makes them very controversial flagships to the extent that it may affect rural people's attitudes to conservation in general. Because of the broad habitat tolerance of large carnivores and their prey, and the difficulties in surveying carnivore numbers, they are very insensitive and impractical indicators of forest biodiversity. This ability of large carnivores to thrive in industrial forests means that the many species that are sensitive to modern forestry will not fall under the umbrella of areas managed for large carnivores. If large carnivores have a keystone function with respect to affecting the density of their ungulate prey it is likely to lead to even further conflicts with hunters who gain economic benefit from harvesting wild ungulates. In other words, none of the classic `ecological' arguments are likely to help justify large carnivore conservation, and large carnivore conservation is unlikely to help conserve the rest of the boreal forest's biodiversity. Based on these arguments we recommend that (1) justification for large carnivore conservation focus on the real philosophical and value orientated reasons rather than ecological justifications, (2) that this conservation should be brought about in practice by dedicated management programs that specifically address the conflicts caused by large carnivores, and (3) that boreal forest biodiversity is best conserved by specific actions designed to establish reserves or change forestry practices.
Biodiversity and Conservation – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 1, 2004
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