The GAP Analysis Program (GAP) is a nation-wide program currently administered by the Biological Resources Division of the US Geological Survey (BRD-USGS; formerly the National Biological Service [NBS]). The overall goal of GAP Analysis is to identify elements of biodiversity that lack adequate representation in the nation's network of reserves (i.e., areas managed primarily for the protection of biodiversity). GAP Analysis is a coarse-filter approach to biodiversity protection. It provides an overview of the distribution and conservation status of several components of biodiversity, with particular emphasis on vegetation and terrestrial vertebrates. Digital map overlays in a Geographic Information System (GIS) are used to identify vegetation types, individual species, and species-rich areas that are unrepresented or underrepresented in existing biodiversity management areas. GAP Analysis functions as a preliminary step to more detailed studies needed to establish actual boundaries for potential additions to the existing network of reserves.
The primary filter in GAP Analysis is vegetation type (defined by the Washington GAP Analysis Project as the composite of actual vegetation, vegetation zone, and ecoregion). Vegetation types are mapped and their conservation status evaluated based on representation on biodiversity management areas, conversion to human-dominated landscapes, and spatial context. Vegetation is used as the primary filter in GAP Analysis because vegetation patterns are determinants of overall biodiversity patterns (Levin 1981, Noss 1990, Franklin 1993). It is impractical to map the distributions of all plants and animals, but GAP Analysis makes the assumption that if all vegetation types are adequately represented in biodiversity management areas, then most plant and animal species will also be adequately represented. The second major GAP Analysis filter is composed of information on the distribution of individual species. This filter can be used to identify individual species that lack adequate protection and, when individual species maps are overlaid, areas of high species richness. In most states, including Washington, vertebrates are the only taxa mapped because there is relatively little information available for other taxa, and because vertebrates currently command the most attention in conservation issues.
For more information: