1. Focal species (i.e. indicators, keystones, umbrellas, and flagships) have been advocated for the management and conservation of natural environments.
2. The assumption has been that the presence or abundance of a focal species is a means to understanding the composition and/or state of the more complex community.
3. We review the characteristics of focal species, and evaluate their appropriateness and utility judged against conservation objectives.
4. It appears that indicator species (of both composition and condition) may be of greatest general utility, and that several types of focal species may exhibit useful indicator properties.
Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.