What is an umbrella species?

What comes to mind when you hear the term umbrella species? Do you think of a penguin waddling through the Arctic with an umbrella overhead? Perhaps not. So what exactly is an umbrella species?

An umbrella species is a species that is selected for conservation purposes because protecting these species either directly or indirectly benefits many other species within its ecological community. Ecological communities are made up of many different species of all different sizes that share the landscape and resources.

In Nevada, we are fortunate to have a few of these essential animals. The mountain lion is a prime example of an umbrella species. Since these big cats have such large territories, protecting mountain lion habitat and preserving habitat connectivity (connecting patches of habitat) indirectly benefits every other species that share the landscape with the mountain lions. How cool is that?

Denise Peterson

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