Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mapping To Prevent Common Species From Becoming Endangered

Could a new U.S. map of ecosystems help keep healthy species from ending up endangered?

Ground and satellite surveys of land cover by the U. S. Geological Survey’s Gap Analysis Program produces data that conservationists may be useful to create and sustain habitat for wildlife.

The Gap Analysis Program (GAP) national land cover viewer displays data on the vegetation and land use patterns of the continental United States. It combines land cover data generated for the Southwest Regional Gap Analysis project completed in 2004, the Southeast Regional Gap Analysis Project completed in 2007, the Northwest Regional Gap project, and the updated California Gap project completed in 2009. For areas of the country without an Ecological System level Gap project, data created by the Landfire Project was used.

All these projects use consistent base satellite imagery, the same classification systems and similar mapping methodology allowing for the creation of a seamless national land cover map.

Eastern box turtle

Research and mapping related to endangered species is done nationwide, but other species (known as common species) are often not as well studied. The Gap Analysis Program works to determine which common species’ habitats may not be well represented by existing parks and conservation areas.

They do that partially by doing a "mash up" of data and maps about species and land use.

You can view and search the mapping system online and also download data.

barn swallow
Looking at New Jersey there, you find a diversity of land use. We have developed, open space that includes areas with a mixture of some constructed materials, but mostly vegetation in the form of lawn grasses. Impervious surfaces account for less than 20 percent of total cover. These areas most commonly include large-lot single-family housing units, parks, golf courses, and vegetation planted in developed settings for recreation, erosion control, or aesthetic purposes.

We also have oak and pine forest. These forests stretch across large areas in the central Appalachians and northern Piedmont, north to central New England. The setting ranges from rolling hills to steep slopes, with occasional occurrences on more level topography. The soils are coarse and infertile; they may be deep (on glacial deposits in the northern part of the range), or shallow, on rocky slopes of acidic rock. The well-drained soils and exposure create dry conditions.

The forest is mostly closed-canopy but can include patches of more open woodlands. It is dominated by a variable mixture of dry-site oak and pine species such as chestnut oak, white oak, red oak, black oak, scarlet oak, pitch pine, and white pine; these may occur as oak forest, mixed oak-pine forest, or patches of pine forest. Heath shrubs (hillside blueberry, huckleberry, and mountain laurel, etc.), often dense, are characteristic.

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