Conservation prioritization can resolve the flagship species conundrum

Jennifer McGowan*, Linda J. Beaumont, Robert J. Smith, Alienor L. M. Chauvenet, Robert Harcourt, Scott C. Atkinson, John C. Mittermeier, Manuel Esperon-Rodriguez, John B. Baumgartner, Andrew Beattie, Rachael Y. Dudaniec, Richard Grenyer, David A. Nipperess, Adam Stow, Hugh P. Possingham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Conservation strategies based on charismatic flagship species, such as tigers, lions, and elephants, successfully attract funding from individuals and corporate donors. However, critics of this species-focused approach argue it wastes resources and often does not benefit broader biodiversity. If true, then the best way of raising conservation funds excludes the best way of spending it. Here we show that this conundrum can be resolved, and that the flagship species approach does not impede cost-effective conservation. Through a tailored prioritization approach, we identify places containing flagship species while also maximizing global biodiversity representation (based on 19,616 terrestrial and freshwater species). We then compare these results to scenarios that only maximized biodiversity representation, and demonstrate that our flagship-based approach achieves 79−89% of our objective. This provides strong evidence that prudently selected flagships can both raise funds for conservation and help target where these resources are best spent to conserve biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number994
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2020

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Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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