Santarém F, Pereira P, Saarinen J, Brito JC



Evaluating flagship species and their potential for biological preservation and ecotourism development is a key issue for many audiences within the conservation and social fields. Despite several methods available to identify flagships, their application is often constrained in remote, poorly studied regions. Developments are needed in statistical and spatially-explicit approaches to assess species' traits influencing flagship appealing, to identify flagship fleets, and to map the location of flagship hotspots. Here, we developed a new method to identify flagship species in regions with knowledge gaps, using a two-stage statistical approach (ordination and clustering algorithms) to assess variable's contribution to appealing and to group species sharing similar characteristics into flagship fleets. We then mapped areas concentrating the highest richness of flagships. Unique morphologies and behaviours, conservation status, endemicity, body size and weight, and feeding habits were the traits contributing the most to the flagship appealing. Nine flagship fleets were identified, from which two were the most suitable for conservation marketing and ecotourism promotion campaigns in Sahara-Sahel: Fleet A comprising 36 large-bodied species (18 mammals, 18 reptiles) and Fleet B including 70 small-bodied species (10 birds, six mammals, 54 reptiles). A total of 19 and 16 hotspots were identified for large-bodied and small-bodied flagships, respectively. The methodology was suitable to identify flagship species for conservation marketing and for developing ecotourism operations in the Sahara-Sahel, to independently assess which species' traits are relevant for flagship appealing, and to organise fleets for multispecies-based marketing campaigns. The framework is scalable and replicable worldwide.



Journal: Biological Conservation

DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.10.017