Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Charismatic megafauna offer protection to their less appealing heterospecifics

Posted 16 Oct 2015 / 0

2015-10-16cConservation MagazinePandas offer ‘protective umbrella’ to other animals

In my ecology courses we talk a lot about the different rationales for conservation, and students invariably laugh at the concept of charismatic megafauna. It is kind of weird — and very typically human — that we reserve particular conservation attention for those big animals that we find cute and appealing. But the question that is important to consider is does our instinct to conserve certain big animals undermine the overall goal of conservation, which ought to be to preserve ecological function. This study suggests that in the case of the Giant Panda we ought not to mock these cute animals too much, because where they live is also home to lots of other endemic species.

It would be interesting to see if other charismatic megafauna also offer similar “protection” to species that share their habitat. And of course whether you find this “panda protection effect” valuable depends on what you care about: endemic species make an area more diverse, but might not make it more ecologically productive.

A Minor Post, Conservation Biology, Habitat Destruction, MSCI-270, Ecology, MSCI-271, Ecology for Architects, Terrestrial, Web

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