You are here: Access Spring 2011 > GAP Enhances the National Map

GAP Enhances the National Map

National Map photo
John Mosesso (left) and Rob Dollison explore new opportunities for cooperation between GAP and the National Map. Photo credit: Bruce Avera Hunter
The National Map is a collaborative effort among the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other federal, state, and local partners to improve and deliver topographic information for the nation (information related to the Earth's surface shape and features). The Gap Analysis Program (GAP), a core component of the USGS Biological Informatics Program, is now represented on the National Map through several of its chief products, including the Protected Areas Database - United States (PAD-US).

The integration of GAP data into the National Map took place over the last year in parallel with the redesign of the National Map viewer and new data services. A priority in this National Map overhaul has been to ensure the map effectively displays data on the Web, as products and services, but also makes those data easily downloadable.

The National Map is responsible for supplying base layers of geographic data for the nation, including hydrography (relating to characteristic features of bodies of water, including flow network, linked information, and other attributes), elevation, geographic names, and orthoimagery (aerial photographs).

The purpose of making this geographic information available is wide-ranging and includes recreation, scientific analysis, and emergency response. The need for these efforts reaches back to 1879, when the USGS was founded and tasked with the responsibility for mapping the nation. It has been the primary civilian mapping agency of the United States ever since.

GAP's mission is to promote biological diversity ("biodiversity") conservation by developing and sharing information on where species and natural communities occur and how they are being managed for their long-term survival.

The GAP concept was born in 1987 in response to the need to complement species-by-species management in dealing with broad spectrum habitat loss. The need for clear, geographically explicit information on the distribution of native vertebrate species, their habitat preferences, and their management status was evident. After two years of development, the program was launched to explore how best to develop predictive information that can be used to manage the nation's biodiversity so that common plant and animal species remain common.

Breakthroughs in science, technology, and effective partnering have greatly enhanced the evolution of the National Map as well as GAP. Now, their paths have converged.

Available through GAP, PAD-US is a national inventory of protected lands that allows wildlife and conservation professionals to find comprehensive information on those lands. The total acreage of these protected areas is more than 347.7 million acres, or 15 percent of the country's total land area (including Alaska, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii). By itself, PAD-US facilitates a wide variety of conservation and land-management efforts such as regional ecological assessments and strategic conservation planning by land trusts; and also expands the value of protected area inventories to the public, government, and the conservation community.

Served through the National Map, users can mix PAD-US and other datasets in whatever way best serves their needs. "For instance," says Rob Dollison of the USGS National Geospatial Program, "a land manager might want to see the impact of fires on a protected area or all the streams within a protected area and start doing some GIS analysis. Now these data are easily available from one, seamless source."

If you have any questions about the integration of GAP data into the National MAP, get in touch with Rob Dollison at If you have any questions about PAD-US, get in touch with John Mosesso at

Padus map graphic
Protected Areas Database - United States (PAD-US) featured in the National Map viewer and available for analysis with other USGS online map services.