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Preserving biodiversity and its many components is a priority of conservation science and how to efficiently allocate resources to preserve healthy populations of as many species, habitats, and ecosystems as possible. We used the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Gap Analysis Project (GAP) species models released in 2018, which identify predicted habitats for terrestrial vertebrates in the conterminous United States, to illustrate hotspots of biodiversity for the major taxonomic groups. This collection represents the first complete compilation of terrestrial vertebrate species models for the conterminous United States (U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), 2018a). We used the species models but not the available subspecies models; this resulted in the inclusion of 282 amphibian models, 621 bird models, 365 mammal models, and 322 reptiles in our analysis. We also used population trend information and made spatial queries to characterize species in three dimensions: geographic range (small or large), habitat breadth (narrow or wide), and population trend (decreasing vs stable or increasing). This characterization allowed us to divide the species into eight groups (A-H) with similar characteristics. Group A species (large geographic range, wide habitat breadth, and stable or increasing population trend) are species that are common now with no indication of becoming rare. Species B-H have theoretical or known characteristics that could lead them to become rare with the H species exhibiting small geographic range, narrow habitat breadth, and decreasing population trend. Finally, we evaluated the prevalence of mapped habitat on protected lands for each species, exploring the patterns of representation in the rare species groups by ecoregion. The species we identified with population and habitat use characteristics that potentially predispose them to being or becoming rare represented a large percentage of each taxon. Potentially rare species were widely distributed among ecoregions. Of the 20 ecoregions in the country, 14 have a greater number of rare species than the national average for at least one taxon. Protection of the habitat for the majority of these rare species is below that recommended (17% of available habitat) by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Everglades ecoregion was the only ecoregion that protected more than half of its rare or potentially rare species.

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