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Conservation short cut, or long and winding road? A critique of umbrella species criteria

Philip J. Seddona1 c1 and Tara Leecha1

a1 Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Abstract

Conservation planners often seek short cuts when making decisions about land use by directing management towards one or a few species that will benefit the wider ecosystem. The umbrella species concept is one such proposed short cut. An umbrella species comprises a population of individuals of a particular species whose resource requirements and habitat needs encompass the sufficient home ranges and resource needs of viable populations of co-occurring species. We examined the 17 published criteria available to identify a potential umbrella species and recommend that conservation managers wishing to apply this concept could focus on only seven criteria: well-known biology; large home range size; high probability of population persistence; co-occurrence of species of conservation interest; management needs that are beneficial to co-occurring species; sensitivity to human disturbance; and ease of monitoring. We note however, that rigorous assessment of candidate umbrella species requires such detailed knowledge of candidate and co-occurring species that it seems less of a short cut than planners may wish.

(Received December 20 2006)

(Reviewed January 23 2007)

(Accepted June 25 2007)

Correspondence:

c1 Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. E-mail philip.seddon@stonebow.otago.ac.nz

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