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Plant communities represent the integration of ecological and biological processes and they serve as an important component for the protection of biological diversity. To measure progress towards protection of ecosystems in the United States for various stated conservation targets we need datasets at the appropriate thematic, spatial, and temporal resolution. The recent release of the LANDFIRE Existing Vegetation Data Products (2016 Remap) with a legend based on U.S. National Vegetation Classification allowed us to assess the conservation status of plant communities of the U.S. The map legend is based on the Group level of the USNVC, which characterizes the regional differences in plant communities based on dominant and diagnostic plant species. By combining the Group level map with the Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US Ver 2.1), we quantified the representation of each Group. If the mapped vegetation is assumed to be 100% accurate, using the Aichi Biodiversity target (17% land in protection by 2020) we found that 159 of the 265 natural Groups have less than 17% in GAP Status 1 & 2 lands and 216 of the 265 Groups fail to meet a 30% representation target. Only four of the twenty ecoregions have >17% of their extent in Status 1 & 2 lands. Sixteen ecoregions are dominated by Groups that are under-represented. Most ecoregions have many hectares of natural or ruderal vegetation that could contribute to future conservation efforts and this analysis helps identify specific targets and opportunities for conservation across the U.S.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.