Abstract: In the face of limited funding, knowledge, and time for action, conservation efforts often rely on shortcuts for the maintenance of biodiversity. The umbrella species concept—proposed as a way to use species requirements as a basis for conservation planning—has recently received growing attention. We reviewed the literature to evaluate the concept's general usefulness. An umbrella species is defined as a species whose conservation is expected to confer protection to a large number of naturally co‐occurring species. This concept has been proposed as a tool for determining the minimum size for conservation areas, selecting sites to be included in reserve networks, and setting minimum standards for the composition, structure, and processes of ecosystems. Among the species suggested as potential umbrellas, most are large mammals and birds, but invertebrates are increasingly being considered. Eighteen research papers, most of which were based on hypothetical reserves or conservation networks, have provided evaluations of umbrella species schemes. These show that single‐species umbrellas cannot ensure the conservation of all co‐occurring species because some species are inevitably limited by ecological factors that are not relevant to the umbrella species. Moreover, they provide evidence that umbrella species from a given higher taxon may not necessarily confer protection to assemblages from other taxa. On the other hand, multi‐species strategies based on systematic selection procedures (e.g., the focal species approach) offer more compelling evidence of the usefulness of the concept. Evaluations of umbrella species schemes could be improved by including measures of population viability and data from many years, as well as by comparing the efficiency of the proposed scheme with alternative management strategies.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Feb 1, 2004
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