Can Charismatic Megafauna Be Surrogate Species for Biodiversity Conservation? Mechanisms and a Test Using Citizen Data and a Hierarchical Community Model

  • Yuichi Yamaura
  • Motoki Higa
  • Masayuki Senzaki
  • Itsuro Koizumi
Part of the Ecological Research Monographs book series (ECOLOGICAL)


Charismatic megafauna are a conservation concern and a flagship of conservation for many other species in the practice of biodiversity conservation. However, some studies support the roles of charismatic megafauna while others do not. In this chapter, we review the ecological mechanisms of why charismatic megafauna can be surrogate species. Based on the niche theory, specialist charismatic species, such as umbrella species, are likely to be surrogate species for richness or abundance of specialist species sharing the same niche axis. Citizen data are promising for testing this hypothesis; however, they are usually collected in a spatially biased manner, which hampers their usage. Here we analyzed citizen data with a hierarchical community model accounting for sampling processes and mapped Hokkaido bird species richness at different resolutions. By overlaying these maps with the distributions of Blakiston’s fish owl and red-crowned crane breeding sites, we show that these sites had higher forest or grassland/wetland bird species richness. Furthermore, the surrogacy was scale-dependent. Conservation practices entail social costs, and continued focus on the role of surrogate species would be due to public understanding and support being prerequisites for their implementation. We advocate selecting species with charismatic features and umbrella roles or flagship-umbrella species, given the strengths and limitations of surrogate schemes, as they play prominent roles linking biodiversity conservation and society.


Community occupancy model Flagship-umbrella species Imperfect detection Indicator species Niche theory Sampling process Spatial resolution Spatially biased data Spatial scale Species richness 



We are very grateful to all of the citizens who were devoted to the biodiversity surveys in Hokkaido and to Dr. Satoru Ono, Rie Kitagawa, and their associates who contributed by developing and managing the Hokkaido Wildlife Distribution Database, as our study would not have been completed without their data and support. This research was supported by the Environmental Research and Technology Development Fund (D-1201) of the Ministry of the Environment, Japan. Y. Yamaura was supported by JSPS KAKENHI (26292074 and 23248021). We also thank F. Nakamura for managing this project. This chapter reuses figures and text from our previous studies (Higa et al. 2015, 2016) with kind permissions from John Wiley and Sons and Springer.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuichi Yamaura
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Motoki Higa
    • 1
    • 4
  • Masayuki Senzaki
    • 1
  • Itsuro Koizumi
    • 5
  1. 1.Graduate School of AgricultureHokkaido UniversityKitaku, SapporoJapan
  2. 2.Department of Forest VegetationForestry and Forest Products Research InstituteTsukubaJapan
  3. 3.Fenner School of Environment and SocietyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  4. 4.Faculty of ScienceKochi UniversityKochiJapan
  5. 5.Faculty of Environmental Earth ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapproJapan

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