New US Map Helps Pinpoint Hotspots for Habitat Conservation

us land use map image

Image via usgs

Is there enough open land left in the US to support wildlife? With the first highly detailed map of US vegetation and land use, conservationists will be able to pinpoint the best spots to concentrate efforts for habitat and wildlife protection. The new map put out by the U.S. Geological Survey is helping professionals answer big questions in where and how to preserve what little biodiversity we have left. According to the USGS, the land cover data used to generate the map is based on NatureServe Ecological Systems Classification, and can help the US plan and manage the biological diversity on both regional and national scales. The map has 551 ecological systems, including those that are "modified" -- as in developed, used for farming, or other uses -- and puts "crucial information into the hands of conservation professionals."

"These data are critical for determining the status of biodiversity, as baseline data for assessing climate change impacts, and for predicting the availability of habitat for wildlife," said John Mosesso, Gap Analysis Program Manager. "Large datasets of this type are extremely important to land and wildlife managers because they allow for analysis and planning across extensive geographic areas."

Viewers can scan through three levels of information, one showing eight types of habitat from grasslands to riparian, one showing 43 classes showing elevation and climates, and one showing every class of land included.

By putting this information into the hands of resource managers, planners, policy makers and other people who have major input into what happens to land, GAP hopes to preserve native species and keep habitat intact.

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