Conservation strategies for a reliable set of umbrella species should benefit many co-occurring species and will improve conservation efficiency. The umbrella index (UI) is increasingly applied for umbrella species selection in different ecosystems. We developed a modified river UI to select potential macroinvertebrate umbrella species with a combination of 69 sites in the Taizi River Basin of northeast China. Calculation of UI and comparison of biotic indices between sites of presence and absence of umbrella species were performed to make the final umbrella species list. The umbrella scheme, based on the proportion and composition of sites supporting the confirmed umbrella species, was introduced to illustrate the conservation effectiveness. A total of eight umbrella species were obtained and all of them were aquatic insects, such as caddisfly and mayfly larva. Umbrella schemes supporting the top umbrella species, hosted the majority of co-occurring species and only 7% of beneficiary species were missed by the umbrella schemes of 70% effort. The positive relationship between abundance of co-occurring species and umbrella species, validated the ability of umbrella species to confer protection and co-existence of co-occurring species, and thus indicated the effectiveness of umbrella species conservation. Co-occurring species were located close to umbrella species in ordinations, suggesting they respond to similar environmental variables characterized by high flow velocity, dissolved oxygen and pebble-covered substrate. On account of good performance of umbrella schemes in our study, UI with further improving methods should be promoted for selection of umbrella species and decision for optimizing of conservation sites in the future.
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