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The new Noah's Ark: Beautiful and useful species only. Part 1. Biodiversity conservation issues and priorities

Small, E. (2011). The new Noah's Ark: Beautiful and useful species only. Part 1. Biodiversity conservation issues and priorities, 12(4), 232-247.


Most of the world's species at risk of extinction are neither particularly attractive nor obviously useful, and consequently lack conservation support. In contrast, the public, politicians, scientists, the media and conservation organisations are extremely sympathetic to a select number of well-known and admired species, variously called flagship, charismatic, iconic, emblematic, marquee and poster species. These are extremely attractive, large, entertaining or useful, and they receive the lion's share of public and private financial support, publicity, research, conservation and protective legislation. Such species have proven to be the best available means of increasing public awareness of the biodiversity crisis, and of mobilising financial support for conservation. They are widely touted as critical to the cause of conservation, not just symbolically, but also because preservation of their habitats, it has been claimed, can simultaneously preserve other species at risk. However, there is only limited evidence of 'trickle-down' benefits to rare, endemic and endangered species. Indeed, management strategies based on various ecologically-defined representative species (surrogate species, focal species, indicator species, keystone species, umbrella species) are only partially useful for aiding non-targeted species at risk. Aesthetic and commercial standards have become the primary determinants of which species in the natural world deserve conservation. Accordingly, the world's biodiversity is being beautified by selective conservation of attractive species, while the plight of the overwhelming majority of species is receiving limited attention. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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