Georgia Gap Analysis

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What is the Geographic Analysis Program (GAP)?

Gap analysis is a scientific method for identifying the degree to which native animal species and natural communities are represented in our present-day mix of conservation lands. Those species and communities not adequately represented in the existing network of conservation lands constitute conservation “gaps”. The purpose of the GAP is to provide broad geographic information on the status of ordinary species (those not threatened with extinction or naturally rare) and their habitats in order to provide land managers, planners, scientists and policy makers with the information they need to make better-informed decisions.

The Georgia Gap Analysis Project (GA-GAP) is part of the National Gap Analysis Program coordinated by the US Geological Survey Biological Resources Division.

GA-GAP is a cooperative effort at the University of Georgia between the Natural Resources Spatial Analysis Laboratory (NARSAL) in the Odum School of Ecology (formerly the Institute of Ecology) and the Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. The project was cosponsored by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division. Other project affiliates included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Turner Foundation, The Sapelo Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and the Georgia Museum of Natural History.

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The Gap Analysis Program Mission

The mission of the Gap Analysis Program is to prevent conservation crises by providing conservation assessments of animals and their habitats and to facilitate the application of this information to land management activities.

This is accomplished through the following objectives:

  • To map actual land cover and vegetation
  • To map the predicted distribution of those terrestrial vertebrates that spend any important part of their life history in the State of Georgia.
  • To document the representation of natural land cover types and animal species in areas managed for the long-term maintenance of biodiversity.

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Why Gap?

The extinction crisis is real and it is here. Waiting until species are endangered to protect them will perpetuate this crisis.

  • Range-wide information on elements is required for proper decision-making.
  • To provide land stewards with the information to be the best stewards of biodiversity that they want to be.

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Assumptions of GAP


  • The best time to save species is while they are still common.
  • It is less costly to maintain natural populations rather than intensely managing endangered populations.
  • Terrestrial elements are necessary, though imperfect surrogates for biodiversity until other taxa are mapped.
  • Gap provides a useful spatial framework to nest data at a variety of scales.
  • It is not a substitute for the Endangered Species Act or Natural Heritage Programs.
  • It is not a complete national biological inventory.


  • Maps are a display of a database.
  • Provides contextual information versus site content.
  • Regardless of minimum mapping unit, all features are either mapped or included of attributes of larger landscape units.
  • Mapped boundaries between land cover types are approximations.
  • Species distribution maps are testable predictions
  • Predicted presence/absence does not imply habitat quality


  • Business model: state-based organization and reporting transitioning to regional execution.
  • The process catalyzes partnerships among state, federal, institutional, and non-governmental organizations.
  • Consistent standards are instituted nationwide, but flexible methods are allowed among projects..

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