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Great Lakes Aquatic Gap Project

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is GAP?

GAP is the acronym used to refer to the Gap Analysis Program of USGS. It could also refer to the fact that GAP is a geographic approach to planning.
Gap Analysis is a proactive approach to protecting biodiversity. It seeks to identify gaps between land areas that are rich in biodiversity and areas that are managed for conservation.
The gap approach is based on three main assumptions:

  1. The best time to save species is while they are still common;
  2. it is cheaper to maintain natural populations, than it is to intensely manage endangered populations; and,
  3. while we cannot perfectly model biodiversity, we can use what we know about the distributions of vertebrate species and vegetation types to assess biodiversity at local, state, regional and national levels.

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Why do we need GAP data?
  • Conservation areas have often been set aside often without regard to their biodiversity content. As a result, many protected areas have little significance in terms of biodiversity, and many areas that are highly significant lack protection.
  • Human population is predicted to double in the next 50 years. As the human population increases, there will be less habitat for other species. As a result, without planning biodiversity will drop sharply
  • The extinction crisis is real and it is here. If we wait until species are endangered before we take steps to protect them, we will perpetuate this crisis.
    Because lack of information leads to poor land use decisions.
  • Provide land stewards with the information to be the best stewards of biodiversity that they want to be.
    You cannot adequately manage an element without knowing its status throughout its range.

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Who uses GAP data?

A wide variety of people use GAP data. Better than 60% of the users are non-federal. These include universities teaching Gap and training a cadre of scientists. State governments are actively using GAP information in making planning decisions. Some key components of Gap data are that they provide standardized definitions, repeatable methods, and a common infomation system.
Some products that are used in making land-use decisions include: digital landcover, species distribution and land stewardship maps; analyses of gaps; maps showing areas of species richness; reports; and cd-roms of data and reports.

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Are other countries interested in GAP?

Yes, many other countries are planning or implementing small and large-scale gap analysis projects.
Mexico has committed funds to cooperate on the Lower Rio Grande “texmex” Gap Analysis Project and is pursuing initiation of a nationwide program. Canada, Australia, and many other countries have expressed an interest in the program.

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How many projects are there?

Gap is a nationwide effort conducted at the state level and coordinated by the USGS Biological Resources Division. Projects to map terrestrial vertebrates have been planned or implemented in each of the 50 states. In addition, aquatic,  regional, and international projects have been planned.

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How many partners are involved in the GAP Projects?

GAP is a cooperative effort among regional, state, tribal and federal agencies, academic and non-governmental institutions, and other private groups as well as the divisions of the U.S. Geological Survey. More than 500 different state, federal, local, and private organizations participate. For a list of our local partners go to our cooperators page.

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U.S. Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey
For information regarding the Wisconsin Aquatic GAP Project please contact Jana Stewart, jsstewar@usgs.gov.
Page is maintained by:
Melanie McCalmont, memccalm@usgs.gov
Page was created on December 17, 2002
Page was last modified on September 5, 2008
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