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A Gap Analysis consists of mapping three data layers — land cover, predicted distributions of vertebrate species, and a stewardship layer depicting both location and conservation status of protected areas. This data is then assessed to determine how much of a target species’ (plant or animal) habitat is in conserved areas. From this assessment, planning decisions can be made about whether further protection is merited.

Here’s a quick glimpse of the process.

Map the LAND COVER of the dominant ecological systems


Map and model SPECIES ranges and distributions
(learn more about GAP Species Data)


Map land STEWARDSHIP by mapping both location and conservation status of protected areas
(learn more about GAP PAD-US Protected Areas Data)


Conduct an ANALYSIS

The analysis step is the point at which we determine how much of a vertebrate species’ or a land cover’s distribution occurs in areas managed for the long-term maintenance of biodiversity.

To calculate this, maps showing the location of plant and animal habitats are overlaid with other maps that show where protected areas are. If predicted plant and animal habitats are in the same place as protected areas, those animals are considered to be protected.

By the time the gap analysis process is completed, a valuable suite of map and data products has been assembled.

Products from a typical Gap Analysis include:

  • Digital land cover maps
  • Digital animal distribution maps
  • Digital protected areas maps
  • Identifications of “conservation gaps”
  • Identifications of species-rich areas
  • Downloadable datasets in multiple formats
  • Assessments of the conservation status of vertebrate species in the United States