Monumental Improvement in Conservation Possible With New ‘Umbrella’ Species

“The koala, red goshawk, matted flax-lily and purple clover are more efficient umbrella species, yet none of these appear on the existing federal government priority species list.”

The protection of Australia’s threatened species could be improved by a factor of seven, if more efficient ‘umbrella’ species were prioritized for protection, according to University of Queensland research.

Umbrella species are species which when preserved, indirectly protect many other plant and animal species.

University of Queensland Ph.D. candidate Michelle Ward said different choices in Australia could provide more assistance for threatened species.

“The Australian Federal Government’s umbrella prioritization list identifies 73 species as conservation priorities,” she said. “But this only ends up benefiting six percent of all Australia’s threatened terrestrial species. This figure could be increased to benefit nearly half of all threatened terrestrial species for the same budget.

“One of the main reasons is that many umbrella species are chosen based on their public appeal, rather than their efficiency for protecting other species – we want to change that.”

The researchers investigated what umbrella species could maximize the flora and fauna benefiting from management, while considering threats, actions, and costs.

“The koala, red goshawk, matted flax-lily and purple clover are more efficient umbrella species, yet none of these appear on the existing federal government priority species list.

“Australia has committed to prevent further extinction of known threatened species and improve their conservation status by 2020. Yet, with limited funding committed to conservation, we need better methods to efficiently prioritize investment of resources.”

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