In conservation biology, umbrella species are often used as agents for a broader set of species, or as representatives of an ecosystem, and their conservation is expected to benefit a large number of naturally co-occurring species. Southwest China is home to not only global biodiversity hotspots, but also rapid economic and population growth and extensive changes in land use. However, because of the large regional span, the diverse species distributions, and the difficulty of field investigations, traditional methods used to assess umbrella species are not suitable for implementation in Southwest China. In the current study, we assessed 810 key protected species from seven taxa by indicator value analysis, correlation analysis, and factor analysis. We selected 32 species as umbrella species, whose habitats overlapped the habitats of 97% of the total species. Furthermore, the selected species were significantly correlated with 70% of all species in the study area. A total of 16 out of 19 selected animal species have been previously mentioned as umbrella species, compared with only 3 out of 13 plants species; this is despite plants accounting for a large proportion of the total species in Southwest China. We discuss the roles of indicator species and co-occurring species, and provide suggestions for species protection in Southwest China based on the current results. Our research provides valuable scientific information for research on umbrella conservation species over large geographical scales, and related fields of biodiversity conservation.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited