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Conserv Biol. 2011 Feb;25(1):9-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01606.x. Epub 2010 Nov 17.

Assessing the value of the umbrella-species concept for conservation planning with meta-analysis.

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Department of Forest Sciences and Centre for Applied Conservation Research, University of British Columbia, 3041-2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


The umbrella-species concept, which suggests that conservation strategies designed for one species may benefit co-occurring species, has been promoted as a framework for conservation planning. Nevertheless, there has been considerable variation in the outcome of empirical tests of this concept that has led researchers to question its value, so we used data from 15 published studies in a meta-analysis to evaluate whether conservation of putative umbrella species also conserves co-occurring species. We tested the effectiveness of putative umbrella species categorized by taxonomic group, taxonomic similarity to co-occurring species, body size, generality of resource use, and trophic level to evaluate criteria proposed to guide the selection of umbrella species. We compared species richness and number of individuals (by species and higher taxonomic group) between sites with and without putative umbrella species to test whether more co-occurring species were present in greater abundances when the area or resource needs of umbrella species were met. Species richness and abundance of co-occurring species were consistently higher in sites where umbrella species were present than where they were not and for conservation schemes with avian than with mammalian umbrella species. There were no differences in species richness or species abundance with resource generalist or specialist umbrella species or based on taxonomic similarity of umbrella and co-occurring species. Taxonomic group abundance was higher in across-taxonomic umbrella species schemes than when umbrella species were of the same taxon as co-occurring species. Co-occurring species had similar, or higher, species richness with small-bodied umbrella species relative to larger-bodied umbrella species. The only significant difference among umbrella species categorized by trophic level was that species richness was higher with omnivorous than it was with carnivorous avian umbrella species. Our results suggest there is merit to the umbrella-species concept for conservation, but they do not support the use of the criteria we used to identify umbrella species.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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