Representative Species

Efficient Conservation Design for Multiple Species

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is responsible for fish, wildlife and plants for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service and other conservation partners often design conservation actions around a single species or location because of management need, vulnerability, or other factors. As threats to species increase and budgetary and staff resources decrease - it is essential that the Service maximize the benefits of their conservation actions for as many species as possible.

One way that the Northeast Region is maximizing the benefits of their conservaiton actions is by developing and implementing the use of representative species to aid in conservation planning. Representative species simplify planning for the habitat needs of large numbers of species by focusing on species that can best represent that larger group of species and the habitats they are associated with in landscapes across the region. Not all species will be readily encompassed by a representative species approach. Species that are particularly rare, that have unique habitat needs, or that experience unique management issues (e.g., primary threat is collection for pet trade or over harvest) will continue to require individual conservation planning.

This approach was initiated by the Northeast Region's Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) team and later fully tested and implemented through the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) working with partners and a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. You can read the representative species executive summary by clicking here or learn more about the representative species project by clicking here.

Nationwide, the Service is implementing the use of surrogate species for conservation planning. Surrogate species is the same as representative species. The draft techncial guidance for selecting surrogate species describes a standard process and criteria for defining biological outcomes using a surrogate species approach, known as representative species in the Northeast Region, reducing the burden of addressing the requirements of many species individually and to support multiple species and habitats within a defined landscape or geographic area.