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

  • Philip J. Seddon (a1) and Tara Leech (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 April 2008

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.

Corresponding author
*Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. E-mail
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