Regional Breakout Sessions at 1997 Annual GAP Conference
Representatives from Maine (Bill Krohn, Randy Boone), Vermont and New Hampshire (David Capen), southern New England (Dana Slaymaker), and New York (Steve DeGloria, C. R. Smith) Gap Analysis projects were present.
The following issues and concerns were discussed: Shifting the responsibility for production of GAP final report CDs from the state projects to USGS was believed by the group to be a good idea. Likewise, development of an outline for preparation of final reports by GAP administrators also was applauded by the Northeast Group. In general, it was believed that there could be a more open, interactive discussion of standards as they are emerging, perhaps at annual meetings. The focus should be on desired attributes and characteristics of final products, rather than on the process or procedures for developing those attributes and characteristics.
The rationale for the MRLC effort remained unclear. The appearance or reality of duplication of effort to produce products (i.e., habitat or land use/land cover maps) was perceived as a problem and could lead to controversy. At this time of tight federal budgets, the question becomes, "Why are three or so agencies producing land use/land-cover maps from the same data?"
The widely staggered start and stop dates for northeastern GAP projects make edge-matching a challenge. For example, the conclusion of the southern New England vegetation mapping effort and absence of GAP funding for staff now based at University of Massachusetts will make edge-matching between NY and southern New England difficult if staff at University of Massachusetts decide to leave the area before edge-matching can be accomplished. Funding to support edge-matching was considered a currently unmet need by the group.
There was discussion about the extent to which it is possible, realistic, or necessary to map vegetation at the alliance level and, when mapping is not possible, to model wildlife/habitat associations at the same level. It was agreed that vegetation mapping for GAP Phase I in the Northeast should focus on mapping those habitats needed to predict vertebrate occurrences. If a GAP Phase II is funded by BRD, emphasis could be placed on developing a more detailed habitat map with more vegetation types (ideally to the alliance level).
With the transfer of Gap Analysis responsibilities to the Biological Resources Division of USGS, the apparent vagueness of the distinction between research and operations, both administratively and programmatically, is causing some uncertainty among cooperators that can lead to reduced productivity and an absence of continuity if not addressed by GAP administrators.
It is important to keep the current technical expertise of GAP projects that are finishing, or have finished, in the GAP analysis planning loop and to be more explicit about what is implied by discussions of a "GAP II." A lot of time, effort, and money have been expended to assemble state-level Gap Analysis teams, and it would be unfortunate to lose that expertise if some plan for low-level continuity of state projects within USGS is not developed. Not all states are eager or interested in assuming responsibility for management of Gap Analysis databases in the absence of funding from USGS. Again, if GAP projects were minimally funded on a continuing basis, there would be greater opportunity to demonstrate uses of GAP databases and to get states to realize the utility of becoming the keepers of GAP data sets.
Charles R. Smith
We discussed the level of detail of alliance-level vegetation mapping required for edge-matching. The level of detail could be fairly general - as reflected in the cover type categories that are driving the wildlife models. A super alliance/general cover type level was agreed upon for multistate activities. This would not affect the development of detailed state classifications which appear to be both alliance- and FIA-based.
The group agreed on sharing habitat models and species extent data. A standard format using hexagons will be the base for sharing all range extent data between the states. The data will be collected and served to the listserve from Virginia Tech. The models will be worked on at the next regional meeting in October at the Smithsonian. Virginia Tech is gathering this information anyway, so it was decided that they would collect the models as well.
We discussed the MRLC accuracy assessment with Pete Campbell, and he indicated that there would be no support for a regional accuracy assessment of their product. A review of the accuracy work completed by WV indicated some major problems with the MRLC Mid-Atlantic product. Too few clusters and a multi-image approach result in far too much confusion/mixing.
Developing an aquatic component of GAP was of interest to all states at the meeting. We felt we could possibly develop a regional strategy (perhaps with help from National GAP) for procuring EPA support for aquatic work - given their emphasis on the region. WV-GAP already received limited support from WVDNR to finish our aquatic GAP pilot, and this work has been completed. We noted that our work relied much more heavily on existing collections data than the work presented by the aquatic pilot project in New York. This will also be discussed in October.
Approximately 20 individuals participated in the southeastern breakout session. Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, and North Carolina were represented.
Vegetation mapping: Currently aerial videography is being used by TN, FL, MS, TX, and NC. Florida has started working with a digital camera system in conjunction with the wide-angle hi 8 mm video. Mississippi is conducting a pilot project using a digital camera and is optimistic about the potential for using stereo pairs for interpretation of vegetation types. South Carolina is in the midst of a pilot study using NAPP (1:40,000 CIR) photography and expert knowledge in labeling vegetation types for sub-watersheds in the coastal plain.
Vegetation classification: There was a general consensus that the state projects should actively communicate about their results with respect to mapping alliances. Shared lists of groups of alliances that accurately represent the land cover units being obtained by the mapping activities will be developed, shared, and revised based on the experiences within the region. Communication will be facilitated by posting results and questions on a newly established southeast GAP listserver.
Multi-Resolution Land Characterization: NC, SC, GA, and MS are using MRLC imagery for their vegetation data layers. FL, KY, TN, and LA are using imagery already available in those states. The MRLC regional land cover classification will be evaluated for its potential use by the GAP projects on a state-by-state basis. There was some discussion that the state projects might benefit from the collection of a consistent set of higher resolution data (air photos, digital camera data, aerial videography) across the region. There was no single answer put forth by the group, but the need for temporally and spatially consistent data was recognized.
Vertebrate Species Modeling: Florida is the furthest along with this and has posted references used in developing their models on their home page. Mississippi is currently doing vertebrate species modeling on an as-needed basis to meet the objectives of some of their cooperators. Tennessee has developed models on a physiographic province basis as the vegetation maps have been developed. Several states are using museum records as secondary checks on the range maps. Mississippi has collected digital records from museums throughout the country. North Carolina has a joint project with the Museum of Natural Science and the North Carolina Heritage Program that has resulted in the digitization of museum records for the southeastern portion of the state. Kentuckys Biodiversity Committee has worked with experts throughout the state to develop lists of those species for which enough information exists to model the species distribution and a list of those for which information is lacking. For the latter, the group has decided to put the effort toward cataloguing existing information.
The southeast will be very active in the years to come and will benefit greatly from sharing ideas, data, methods, and results. In order to help this along, the southeast GAP listserver has been established (request information from firstname.lastname@example.org). In addition, it was agreed that regional meetings are a must. The proposal is to hold a meeting in the winter to complement the national meeting held in the summer.
The Great Plains regional breakout session began with a report on the status of mapping land cover, modeling vertebrate distributions, and digitizing stewardship layers from each state. It became evident very quickly that a question/answer period for a land cover subgroup and a vertebrate subgroup was needed to use the time effectively.
Before breaking into subgroups, we discussed the apparent trend of many individuals who are involved in mapping land cover attending the national GAP meeting, but few individuals responsible for the stewardship layer doing so. The number of individuals modeling vertebrate distributions was intermediate between these two. The consensus was that the past two meetings were very expensive, and we would prefer to hold meetings on university campuses and stay in dormitories so that more individuals from each project could attend. Our group also preferred to have the national meeting held at the site of a GAP project so that field trips could be used to tour facilities or do a service project. Additional suggestions were that the meeting be shortened by one day, and that interactive demonstrations be held concurrently in the same room as the poster session. It also was suggested that the poster session with authors present be held in the evening and early in the conference, but not during the welcoming mixer.
Individuals within the land cover subgroup agreed that mapping land cover in the grasslands at the alliance level was a difficult task. Ideas on what works and what doesnt were exchanged. This subgroup also examined Iowas experience with land cover and then answered questions from state projects that are just beginning to map land cover.
Within the vertebrate subgroup, a more detailed description was given of the status of each states structure for modeling vertebrate species. These reports were used as a framework to formulate an agenda for the first Great Plains Vertebrate Working Group meeting. It was decided that the Vertebrate Working Group would meet with the Land Cover Group during the first year. Our first meeting will consist of sessions that both subgroups will attend; these will be followed by breakout sessions. Pre-meeting assignments will be made for each state project so that we will be able to make maximal use of time during these meetings.
The reporting of commission errors was discussed without reaching a consensus on the issue of whether reporting this type of error is worthwhile. We also discussed the lack of awareness of the Gap Analysis Program (GAP) by the scientific societies interested in terrestrial vertebrates, e.g., American Society of Mammalogists, American Ornithological Union, Wilson Society, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. The subgroup recommended that the national office take a proactive role in making these and similar societies and their memberships aware of the general program. This awareness of GAP should make it easier for states to get cooperation and help from experts within each taxon. It also was suggested that the national vegetation list be sent to groups that are working on surveys or species accounts (e.g., North American birds) so that these groups can help us as we produce our vertebrate models (i.e., habitat descriptions would not have to be cross-walked to match our land cover classification).
Glennis A. Kaufman
The Rocky Mountain breakout session was attended by representatives from the Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming GAP projects, all of which have completed or are near completion of first-generation GAP. Interest centered around "life after GAP" and was dominated by a discussion of a proposed collaborative effort to extend state-by-state assessments of land cover types vs. land status to a larger region. We agreed to embark on this project and are currently mobilizing to gather and combine the appropriate data. We briefly discussed "ReGAP" for the region, but felt that it was still too early and uncertain to define specific discussion issues. All of the represented states, however, expressed interest in "ReGAP" and would like to be involved in discussion as plans and time tables solidify.
Finally, Brand Niemann of the EPA visited our group and expressed some of the data needs associated with the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In particular, a consistent, edge-matched land cover map is needed for the area. Brand suggested that EPA dollars may be available to help achieve this goal.
The western region breakout session included representation from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Washington has completed its gap analysis data sets. The final report will consist of five volumes (Land Cover, Birds, Mammals, Reptiles & Amphibians, and Gap Analyses) which will be printed and distributed. Oregon is conducting a land cover accuracy assessment using videography and should be finished around January 1998. This is the second version of a land cover map in Oregon. Idahos second version of a land cover map is finished for northern Idaho, and Utah is producing a land cover map for southern Idaho, which should be finished in late 1997. The vertebrate models for Idaho are being developed through literature research and incorporating elevation, slope, DEMs, forest size, and classes.
Attendees: Kathryn Thomas (facilitator/note taker), Sarah Jacobs, David Charlet, Eric Holt, Kelly Allen, Carlos Gonzalez-Rebeles, Roy Hobbs, John Mangiameli, Bruce Thompson, Don Schrupp. Most of the discussion covered issues of a tightly coordinated second-generation GAP effort for the Southwestern states, referred to as "ReGAP."
Ecological Stratification for ReGAP
(Directors Note: The hexagons are used as a raster tool for displaying and adjusting range maps. As such, they can be used to bound distributions at a continental scale. However, it is the 1:100,000 scale predicted distribution data that should drive population of the hexes. - MJ)
Coordination Between ReGAP States
Miscellaneous Problems and Issues
Bourgeron, P.S., and L.D. Engelking, editors. 1994. A preliminary vegetation classification of the Western United States. Unpublished report prepared by the Western Heritage Task Force for The Nature Conservancy, Boulder, Colorado.