The protection of Australia’s threatened species could be improved by a factorof seven, if more efficient ‘umbrella’ species were prioritised forprotection, according to University of Queensland research.

Umbrella species are species which when preserved, indirectly protect manyother plant and animal species.

UQ PhD candidate Michelle Ward said different choices in Australia couldprovide more assistance for threatened species.

“The Australian Federal Government’s umbrella prioritisation list identifies73 species as conservation priorities,” she said.

“But this only ends up benefiting six per cent of all Australia’s threatenedterrestrial species.

“This figure could be increased to benefit nearly half of all threatenedterrestrial species for the same budget.

“One of the main reasons is that many umbrella species are chosen based ontheir public appeal, rather than their efficiency for protecting other species– we want to change that.”

The researchers investigated what umbrella species could maximise the floraand fauna benefiting from management, while considering threats, actions andcosts.

“The koala, red goshawk, matted flax-lily and purple clover are more efficientumbrella species, yet none of these appear on the existing federal governmentpriority species list.

“Australia has committed to prevent further extinction of known threatenedspecies and improve their conservation status by 2020.

“Yet, with limited funding committed to conservation, we need better methodsto efficiently prioritise investment of resources.”

The study’s senior author, UQ and the Nature Conservancy’s Professor HughPossingham said in a time of crisis, smart decision-making was essential.

“Now is precisely the time where governments need to get their investment innature to be as efficient as possible,” he said.

“Nations around the world can significantly improve the selection of umbrellaspecies for conservation action by taking advantage of our transparent,quantitative and objective prioritisation approach.

“With a species extinction crisis, looming international deadlines and limitedconservation funding globally, we need better methods to efficientlyprioritise investment of resources in species recovery.”

The study, published in Conservation Biology (DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13430), wasconducted by UQ, The Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society andthe United Nations Development Program.

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