Online USGS Vegetation Map New Key Tool For Conservationists

One problem with trying to conserve wildlife habitats is first finding them – more remote areas don’t always provide the easiest access to conservationists trying to do their jobs. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) may now have a solution to help out in this, according to Wired, by unveiling what it calls the “most detailed national vegetation U.S. land-cover map to date.”

The USGS said that this map, produced by its Gap Analysis Program (GAP), will help conservationists identify places in the country with sufficient habitat to support wildlife. The map is based upon the NatureServe Ecological Systems Classification, described as “landscape units encompassing complexes of biological communities that occur in similar physical environments and that are influenced by similar dynamic ecological processes.” The map’s development keeps in step with GAP’s self-described mission of keeping “common species common by providing information on the status of native species.”

USGS Map

image via USGS

What’s most useful to those viewing this map online is the level of detail available. The USGS says one will be able to explore “land cover data at three levels of complexity. Level 1 contains eight classes: grassland, shrubland, forest, aquatic, sparse and barren, recently disturbed, riparian, and human land use. Level 2 contains 43 classes, and incorporates information on elevation and climate. Level 3 contains the full 583 classes.” It will allow viewers to look at “exploration of ecological system distribution patterns at multiple scales” and calculate statistics on the types of vegetation occurring within a mapping zone, a state, or a county.

“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, in a statement. “Large datasets of this type are extremely important to land and wildlife managers because they allow for analysis and planning across extensive geographic areas.”

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