Gap Analysis is a U.S. Geological Survey/Biological Resources Division (USGS/BRD) research effort being implemented across the nation with the help of over 400 cooperating organizations including private business corporations, non-profit groups, universities and other government agencies. The effort seeks to identify the degree to which all native plant and animal species and natural communities are or are not represented in our present-day mix of conservation lands. Species-rich areas, vertebrate species and land cover types that are not adequately managed for the long-term maintenance of native species and natural ecosystems constitute conservation "gaps."
The Nebraska Gap Analysis Project is managed by Dr. James W. Merchant and Dr. Geoff Henebry, Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies, Conservation and Survey Division, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The project involves close collaboration with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the University of Nebraska State Museum, other university faculty, state and federal agencies and many others. Nebraska GAP objectives are to:
- map existing statewide vegetation and other land cover;
- predict the present distributions of native animal species;
- determine the extent and importance of places of native species richness;
- compare the distributions of vegetation communities with existing land management goals;
- compare places of species richness with existing land management goals;
- provide an objective basis for a statewide biodiversity management strategy.
The Nebraska GAP will involve analysis of the distribution of actual natural vegetation, mapped from satellite imagery and other records, and the distributions of native animal species, mapped by using museum and agency records in conjunction with known habitat ranges. These data will be manipulated and displayed with a computerized geographic information system (GIS). Maps of species-rich areas, individual species of concern, and vegetation types will be overlaid on maps of public land ownership and management, to provide land stewards with the information to make well-informed decisions regarding biodiversity management..
Because the Gap program is based on a standardized method and format, as state projects are completed the data are edge-matched with adjacent states to reveal, for the first time, actual patterns of biodiversity at scales relevant to both the magnitude of present-day changes and the multiple levels of biological organization. Gap analysis is being completed on a state-by-state basis, and projects are now underway in most states. Initial GAP products are available for the states of Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Arkansas, and are already being used by state and local agencies, schools, research institutions, non-profit organizations and other federal agencies for many different purposes. Data from the states of Arizona, Nevada and Washington should soon be available. It is anticipated that data for Nebraska will be useful to many agencies, non-profit organizations and others involved in land management, public policy development, planning and teaching.