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Gap Analysis Project (GAP) Terrestrial Vertebrate Species Richness Maps for the Conterminous U.S.

June 4, 2019

The mission of the Gap Analysis Project (GAP) is to support national and regional assessments of the conservation status of vertebrate species and plant communities. This report explains conterminous United States species richness maps created by the U.S. Geological Survey for four major classes in the phylum Chordata: mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. In this work, we focus on terrestrial vertebrate species and the spatial patterns of richness derived from species’ habitat distribution models. We created species’ habitat distribution models for 1,590 species (282 amphibians, 621 birds, 365 mammals, 322 reptiles) and an additional 129 subspecies (2 amphibians, 28 birds, 94 mammals, 5 reptiles) that occur in the conterminous United States. The 1,590 species level models were spatially combined to create the taxa richness maps at a spatial resolution of 30 meters. Based on those maps we identified the maximum species richness for each of the taxa (43 amphibians, 163 birds, 72 mammals, and 54 reptiles) and show variation in richness across the conterminous United States. Because these habitat models remove unsuitable areas within the range of the species, the patterns of richness presented here are different from the coarse-resolution species’ habitat distribution models commonly presented in the literature. These maps provide a new, more spatially refined richness map. In addition, since these models are logically linked to mapped data layers that constitute habitat suitability, this suite of data can provide an intuitive data system for further exploration of biodiversity and implications for change at ecosystem and landscape scales.