Gap analysis: Concepts, methods, and recent results
Rapid progress is being made in the conceptual, technical, and organizational requirements for generating synoptic multi-scale views of the earth's surface and its biological content. Using the spatially comprehensive data that are now available, researchers, land managers, and land-use planners can, for the first time, quantitatively place landscape units – from general categories such as ‘Forests’ or ‘Cold-Deciduous Shrubland Formation’ to more categories such as ‘Picea glauca-Abies balsamea-Populus spp. Forest Alliance’ – in their large-area contexts. The National Gap Analysis Program (GAP) has developed the technical and organizational capabilities necessary for the regular production and analysis of such information. This paper provides a brief overview of concepts and methods as well as some recent results from the GAP projects. Clearly, new frameworks for biogeographic information and organizational cooperation are needed if we are to have any hope of documenting the full range of species occurrences and ecological processes in ways meaningful to their management. The GAP experience provides one model for achieving these new frameworks.