The goal of the GAP Analysis Program is to keep common species common by identifying those species and habitats that are not yet adequately represented in the existing matrix of conservation lands. The Gap Analysis Program (GAP) is sponsored by the Biological Resources Discipline of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The Ohio Aquatic GAP (OH-GAP) is a pilot project that is applying the GAP concept to aquatic-specifically, riverine-data. The mission of GAP is to provide regional assessments of the conservation status of native animal species and to facilitate the application of this information to land-management activities. OH-GAP accomplished this through
* mapping aquatic habitat types,
* mapping the predicted distributions of fish, crayfish, and bivalves,
* documenting the presence of aquatic species in areas managed for conservation,
* providing GAP results to the public, planners, managers, policy makers, and researchers, and
* building cooperation with multiple organizations to apply GAP results to state and regional management activities.
Gap analysis is a coarse-scale assessment of aquatic biodiversity and conservation; the goal is to identify gaps in the conservation of native aquatic species. It is not a substitute for biological field studies and monitoring programs. Gap analysis was conducted for the continuously flowing streams in Ohio. Lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, and the Lake Erie islands were not included in this analysis. The streams in Ohio are in the Lake Erie and Ohio River watersheds and pass through six of the level III ecoregions defined by Omernik: the Eastern Corn Belt Plains, Southern Michigan/Northern Indiana Drift Plains, Huron/Erie Lake Plain, Erie Drift Plains, Interior Plateau, and the Western Allegheny Plateau.
To characterize the aquatic habitats available to Ohio fish, crayfish, and bivalves, a classification system needed to be developed and mapped. The process of classification includes delineation of areas of relative homogeneity and labeling these areas using categories defined by the classification system. The variables were linked to the 1:100,000-scale streams of the National Hydrography Dataset of the USGS. Through discussions with Ohio aquatic experts, OH-GAP identified eight separate enduring physical features which, when combined, form the physical habitat type:
* Shreve link (a measure of stream size)
* Downstream Shreve link (a measure of stream connectivity and size)
* Stream temperature
* Character of glacial drift
* Glacial-drift thickness
Potential distribution models were developed for 130 fish, 70 bivalve, and 17 native crayfish species. These models are based on 5,686 fish, 4,469 crayfish, and 2,899 freshwater bivalve (mussels and clams) sampling locations, the variables describing the physical habitat types, and variables indicating the major drainage basins and Omernik's Level III ecoregion. All potential species distributions are displayed and analyzed at the 14-digit hydrologic unit (14-HUs), or subwatershed, level. Mainland Ohio contains 1,749 14-HUs. All statistics and conclusions, as well as spatial data, are discussed and presented in terms of these units.
The Ohio Aquatic Gap Analysis Project compiled a map of public and private conservation lands and OH-GAP classified the lands into four status categories (status 1 through status 4) by the degree of protection offered based on management practices. A status of 1 denotes the highest, most permanent level of maintenance, and status 4 represents the lowest level of biodiversity management, or unknown status. The results of this mapping show that only about 3.7 percent of the state's land (4.3 percent if lakes and reservoirs are also included) is protected for conservation, either publicly or privately. Of this total, state agencies control about 52 percent, and Federal agencies control about 29 percent.
Conservation areas that presently protect