KEYSTONE, FOCAL AND TARGET SPECIES IN ECOLOGY, NATURE CONSERVATION AND RISK ASSESSMENT, A SOMETIMES CONFUSING MATTER OF DEFINITIONHerman Eijsackers and Mark Maboeta
Communicating the results of research to policymakers and the general public becomes more and more important. To this end appealing titles, phrases and terms are used. However, when terms such as keystone, focal and target species are not precisely defined, or can be differently interpreted depending on the societal angle of approach, misinterpretation and confusion can result. This paper discusses the various interpretations and definitions of keystone, umbrella and flagship species in ecology, of target species in nature conservation and biocide assessment, of focal species in ecological risk assessment of pesticides and of threatened species in ecological risk assessment. The type of problems arising are described and a number of improvements are suggested, the most important being: phrase terms as neutral and functional as possible, because catchy terms cause confusion. A proper terminology is also part of scientific integrity. Too overdone or pertinent conclusions could even result in official complaints and social implementation.