Assessing the umbrella value of a range-wide conservation network for jaguars

Daniel Thornton, Kathy Zeller, Carlo Rondinini, Luigi Boitani, Kevin Crooks, Christopher Burdett, Alan Rabinowitz and Howard Quigley.

Umbrella species are employed as conservation short-cuts for the design of reserves or reserve networks. However, empirical data on the effectiveness of umbrellas is equivocal, which has prevented more widespread application of this conservation strategy. We perform a novel, large-scale evaluation of umbrella species by assessing the potential umbrella value of a jaguar (Panthera onca) conservation network (consisting of viable populations and corridors) that extends from Mexico to Argentina. Using species richness, habitat quality, and fragmentation indices of ~1500 co-occurring mammal species, we show that jaguar populations and corridors overlap a substantial amount and percentage of high-quality habitat for co-occurring mammals and that the jaguar network performs better than random networks in protecting high-quality, interior habitat. Significantly, the effectiveness of the jaguar network as an umbrella would not have been noticeable had we focused on species richness as our sole metric of umbrella utility. Substantial inter-order variability existed, indicating the need for complementary conservation strategies for certain groups of mammals. We offer several reasons for the positive result we document, including the large spatial scale of our analysis and our focus on multiple metrics of umbrella effectiveness. Taken together, our results demonstrate that a regional, single-species conservation strategy can serve as an effective umbrella for the larger community and should help conserve viable populations and connectivity for a suite of co-occurring mammals. Current and future range-wide planning exercises for other large predators may therefore have important umbrella benefits.


A map of the jaguar conservation network for the Americas. The network consists of Jaguar Conservation Units (JCUs; in black), which maintain viable populations of jaguars, and jaguar corridors (in gray), linking the JCUs.


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