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Changes Occurring in the Patterns of Biodiversity in the U.S.

The threats posed by land-use change (i.e. urbanization, agricultural conversion), climate change, and invasive species underscore the need for proactive management of the nation’s biological resources. Conservation planning at regional and national extents has been limited by, among other things, the lack of consistent, detailed, and current data. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Gap Analysis Project (GAP) has been working to address that problem by creating national datasets to support analysis and resource management. In order to be effective in conservation, resource agencies need monitoring protocols built on consistent, seamless, and up-to-date information. Coming to an agreement on those protocols is organizationally complex. However, GAP has completed national data products for terrestrial ecosystems, protected areas (PAD-US), and models depicting the predicted distribution of terrestrial vertebrate species. The completion of these products represents a significant investment over time. The current challenge is to make the most of these investments by finding efficient methods for enhancing and maintaining the currency of the information and broadening the application of that data to address areas of policy concern. As anthropogenic pressures continue to grow and change, goals and strategies must be reassessed to ensure the data and analyses we present serve the interested human communities effectively and collaboratively.

The proposed research objectives focus on updating and refining the national datasets developed by USGS GAP with partners depicting protected areas, land cover, and vertebrate species distributions, and utilizing this information in analyses to address pressing and policy relevant landscape-scale conservation and other land management questions. Updating and refining the USGS GAP datasets is an iterative process that allows updates in scientific knowledge through improvements in modeling techniques and expert review. Periodic updating of the products allows changes on the landscape to be reflected, ensuring that they meet future conservation needs and allow for adaptive and responsive management to landscape changes over time.