Umbrella species - Definition and examples

Many times one or more species are selected for preserve an entire ecosystem, however, this means that these species meet certain requirements or aspects. Some of them are that they are charismatic species and that attract the support of the people, that they fulfill a specific or very important role in a given area or species whose presence is an indication of the health of the environment where they live..

In the case of umbrella species, in general they are species with large territories and that occupy a great variety of habitats, which is why they are often selected for species and ecosystem conservation projects. If you want to continue learning about the umbrella species, continue reading this AnimalWised article and we will tell you all about them.

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  1. What are umbrella species? - Characteristics
  2. How important are umbrella species?
  3. Examples of umbrella species

What are umbrella species? - Characteristics

Umbrella species or umbrella species are all those species selected to conserve an ecosystem or other species, since, in general, by protecting these species, many other species that share their habitat are also indirectly protected..

They are species that generally need wide territories for their populations to be viable, their survival is long and in general they are generalists in terms of the environments they occupy. In addition, the conservation of this indirectly affects its entire ecosystem (and the species that live in it) and this is also conserved, this is called "umbrella effect ".

These organisms are sometimes used as a motive for design protected areas, although many times its vital area can be very large, as with some species of felines, for example. Thus, they are also often known and charismatic species by people, which makes their conservation more supportive..

The species considered umbrella are generally of big size (although it should not always be this way) and with a long generational time. Additionally, although it is not a requirement for these species, they may have other aspects that add value when it comes to their conservation, such as their sensitivity to the transformation of their environment by anthropic activities..

Despite not being necessary, umbrella species may have other attributes that improve their effectiveness, such as surrogate species, such as being sensitive to human disturbances, species that are the food source of large predators or, on the other hand, taking into account other aspects that have more to do with the habitat where they live, for example, migratory routes.

How important are umbrella species?

They are of great importance when deciding and selecting potential areas to conserve, such as the creation of natural parks and protected areas under various categories. Due to the rapid transformation of landscapes, the use of umbrella species (as well as keystone species or other environmental indicators) serve as a natural tool for assess the health status of an ecosystem, its composition and in this way know and preserve it.

That is why it must be of vital importance in conservation projects correctly identify these species and, thus, be able to create efficient protected areas that include a large number of species.

Examples of umbrella species

Some of the most notable examples of umbrella species are:

Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus)

It is a large species that is adapted to almost all environments of the Andes Mountains. It was proposed to design biological corridors and protected areas in places where this species is found, making maps of its distribution in each country and the protected areas that housed it, taking into account all the environmental factors to which the Andean bear is accustomed.

Spotted owlStrix occidentalis)

It is a species that is found "Near threatened " and that it uses tree holes for nesting, so it depends on tall and older trees, although it can also nest in abandoned nests of other birds and sometimes in younger trees. Its conservation protects ancient forests and growing trees. This has led to the protection of its entire environment and species of salamanders and mollusks that inhabit the same area..

Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)

This species helped define the limits of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, since thanks to its migratory movements of thousands of individuals, it can be preserve the great plains of this region made up of grass pastures that are the food source of this species. In this case, we are also talking about a keystone species and ecosystem engineer.

You may also be interested in this other article on Invasive Species - Definition, examples and consequences.

Giant woodpeckerCampephilus magellanicus)

It constitutes an umbrella species because it is resident in the area where it lives (South of Chile and Argentina) and its territory is more extensive than other species of birds that also inhabit the same Andean-Patagonian forests, therefore the protection of habitat of this species too helps protect many other species with lower territory requirements and, at the same time, benefit the forest protection subantarctic of Magellan.

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