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One of the potentially useful indirect shortcut methods in biodiversity conservation is the umbrella species concept. An umbrella species can be seen relatively demanding for the size of the area and probably also for certain habitat types: conservation management for the umbrella species would thus encompass other species preferring similar habitats but with smaller area requirements. As such, it has a comprehensive spatial aspect for landscape planning. We tested the role of the Siberian flying squirrel (Pteromys volans) as an umbrella species for wood dependent species among red-listed and old-growth forest associated polypores, epiphytic lichens and beetles. Flying squirrels inhabit home ranges of several to tens of hectares, and prefer mature spruce-dominated (Picea abies) mixed forests, which often have high amounts of dead wood. We carried out species surveys and trappings during 1 year from 20 mature spruce-dominated forest stands (altogether 162 ha), of which 12 were occupied by the flying squirrel. The amount of dead wood was higher in occupied stands than in unoccupied stands. We also found a tendency for a higher number of species and number of records in occupied stands, a relationship mostly due to the polypore species. The presence of the flying squirrel may reflect the habitat availability for species depending on dead and living wood, and assist in site selection of conservation areas. We suggest that the flying squirrel has potential as an umbrella species to partly enhance maintenance of biodiversity in northern boreal forests in Finland.
Journal: Ecological Indicators - Volume 8, Issue 3, May 2008, Pages 246–255