If this assumption is true, than scientists could study one taxa, say lichen, and use the results as a surrogate for studying all of the other possible taxa. But a new study by Dr. Che-Castaldo questions this "surrogacy" assumption:
"Testing Surrogacy Assumptions: Can Threatened and Endangered Plants Be Grouped by Biological Similarity and Abundances?" Abstract: "There is renewed interest in implementing surrogate species approaches in conservation planning due to the large number of species in need of management but limited resources and data. One type of surrogate approach involves selection of one or a few species to represent a larger group of species requiring similar management actions, so that protection and persistence of the selected species would result in conservation of the group of species. However, among the criticisms of surrogate approaches is the need to test underlying assumptions, which remain rarely examined. In this study, we tested one of the fundamental assumptions underlying use of surrogate species in recovery planning: that there exist groups of threatened and endangered species that are sufficiently similar to warrant similar management or recovery criteria. Using a comprehensive database of all plant species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and tree-based random forest analysis, we found no evidence of species groups based on a set of distributional and biological traits or by abundances and patterns of decline. Our results suggested that application of surrogate approaches for endangered species recovery would be unjustified. Thus, conservation planning focused on individual species and their patterns of decline will likely be required to recover listed species."
Similar conclusions have been reached by a other studies. For example, Erhlich et. al. 2002 found that in subalpine meadows in Colorado, indicator taxa show no skill in predicting diversity of other taxa, even among phylogenetically related species (in this case, butterflies and moths).