We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Umbrella Species?

Sara Schmidt
By
Updated Mar 05, 2024
Our promise to you
AllThingsNature is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At AllThingsNature, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

An umbrella species is a plant or animal species with a wide range that has requirements for living that are as high or higher than other animals in its habitat. This means that if that species' requirements are met, then those of many other species in its area will be met as well. As such, these animals are commonly used in conservation. Though this term is related to other conservation ideas like flagship, keystone, or indicator species, it's actually something very different. There are criticisms of the umbrella system; however, it has proved helpful in several situations.

Types

There is no international criteria for selecting animals to serve as umbrella species, but generally speaking, they tend to be large mammals or birds, since they tend to have the greatest range of environments and often have a large impact on their ecosystem. Many times, endangered or vulnerable types of animals are chosen, since more people know about them or because environmental legislation can be more easily used to protect them. Some conservationists make use of an extended umbrella model, in which they choose several high-needs species that have overlapping requirements, so that they can have the best chance of meeting the needs of the most animals possible. Common umbrella species include the Northern spotted owl, tigers, grizzly bears, rhinoceri, and whales.

Uses

The use of umbrella species is designed to make the conservation and environmental decision-making process easier. With so many millions of diverse forms of wildlife requiring monitoring and protection, it can be difficult to assess the individual needs of every single species. Since the umbrella species' requirements include those of so many other species, conservationists can reasonably assume that they've helped all those other species that share requirements with it when they help it.

This model is also used in creating wildlife reserves. In this situation, conservationists calculate how much land an umbrella species would need, and then designate that much land as that animal would need as an area of concern or a reserve.

Criticisms

While it is assumed that protecting an umbrella species will automatically provide protection to other surrounding organisms, this is often hard to monitor in practice. Some also feel that focusing on only one species at the possible expense of others is not the best conservation method. Additionally, little research has been done to confirm whether the umbrella model actually works, and many of the studies that have been done on it show that it's not always effective. For example, Noss et al. (1996) found that though grizzly bears would work fairly well as an umbrella animal, the needs of reptiles in the bears' area would not be covered. Despite these criticisms, the model has worked well in several situations. For example, Martinkainen et al. (1998) found that white-backed woodpeckers worked well as an umbrella for a certain type of beetle.

Related Concepts

The idea of choosing one species to help or monitor is also used in choosing a flagship, keystone, or indicator species. Flagship species are animals that are chosen as the "face" of an environmental campaign because they're appealing and a lot of people know about them. For instance, pandas or whales are commonly used as flagship animals.

Keystone species are animals that have a fairly small distribution, but have a large impact on their environment, like beavers. Indicator species are those that can be used to learn certain things about the surrounding environment. For example, certain types of fish can only live in very clean water, so the presence of that fish in an area would indicate that the water is clean.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is an umbrella species?

An umbrella species is a species whose conservation provides protection for a wide range of other species and the ecosystem they inhabit. By focusing on their habitat needs, conservationists can indirectly preserve the habitats of many other species. This approach is effective because umbrella species typically require large and diverse habitats to thrive.

Why are umbrella species important for biodiversity?

Umbrella species are crucial for biodiversity because their conservation often leads to the protection of less charismatic species that share their habitat. According to the National Wildlife Federation, safeguarding the habitats of umbrella species can simultaneously conserve many other species, thus maintaining the ecological diversity and stability of an area.

Can you give an example of an umbrella species?

The northern spotted owl serves as a classic example of an umbrella species. Its protection has led to the conservation of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, which are also home to countless other species. By preserving the owl's habitat, a broad array of forest-dependent flora and fauna benefit as well.

How are umbrella species selected for conservation?

Umbrella species are selected based on their habitat needs and the degree to which protecting these needs will incidentally protect other species. Scientists look for species that have large home ranges or require specific habitats that are also critical for other species. The selection process often involves extensive ecological research and habitat modeling.

What is the difference between an umbrella species and a keystone species?

An umbrella species' conservation protects the habitats of many other species, while a keystone species plays a critical role in maintaining the structure of an ecological community. Keystone species have a disproportionately large effect on their environment relative to their abundance, such as beavers, whose dam-building activities create wetlands used by many other species.

How does protecting an umbrella species contribute to ecosystem services?

Protecting an umbrella species contributes to ecosystem services by ensuring the survival of ecosystems that provide invaluable services to humans, such as clean water, air purification, and pollination. For instance, conserving a forest-dwelling umbrella species helps maintain the forest ecosystem, which in turn regulates climate and supports agriculture through pollination services.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Sara Schmidt
By Sara Schmidt
With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for AllThingsNature, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.

Discussion Comments

By Heavanet — On Feb 08, 2014

I think the concept of using umbrella species to protect other living creatures in the same area is a great way to enforce conservation. Without this protection, many potentially endangered species and the environment around them may be at risk. For example, certain types of insects are protected as umbrella species, which in turn enforces the protection of the land where they are found.

Sara Schmidt

Sara Schmidt

With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for AllThingsNature, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.
AllThingsNature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

AllThingsNature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.