Runge, Claire; Withey, John; Naugle, David E.; Fargione, Joseph E.; Helmstedt, Kate; Larsen, Ashley E.; Martinuzzi, Sebastián; Tack, Jason D. 2019. Single species conservation as an umbrella for management of landscape threats. PLoS ONE. (Abstract) (Online version)
Single species conservation unites disparate partners for the conservation of one species. However, there are widespread concerns that single species conservation biases conservation efforts towards charismatic species at the expense of others. Here we investigate the extent to which sage grouse (Centrocercus sp.) conservation, the largest public-private conservation effort for a single species in the US, provides protections for other species from localized and landscape-scale threats. We compared the coverage provided by sage grouse Priority Areas for Conservation (PACs) to 81 sagebrush-associated vertebrate species distributions with potential coverage under multi-species conservation prioritization generated using the decision support tool Zonation. PACs. We found that the current PAC prioritization approach was not statistically different from a diversity-based prioritization approach and covers 23.3% of the landscape, and 24.8%, on average, of the habitat of the 81 species. The proportion of each species distribution at risk was lower inside PACs as compared to the region as a whole, even without management (land use change 30% lower, cheatgrass invasion 19% lower). Whether or not bias away from threat represents the most efficient use of conservation effort is a matter of considerable debate, though may be pragmatic in this landscape where capacity to address these threats is limited. The approach outlined here can be used to evaluate biological equitability of protections provided by flagship species in other settings.