See the complete article: Publicly available global environmental layers

  • Edited by: T. Hengl

GBIF provides access to global data showing the distribution of all flora and fauna species. The density maps are available only at resolution of 1 arcdegree (about 100 km). Global maps of biodiversity measures for various groups of taxa (e.g. vascular plants, birds and mammals) can be browsed using the World Atlas of Biodiversity viewer (showing mainly the data published in Groombridge and Jenkins, 2002). Similar type of maps can be browsed via the UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre. National and international protected sites and attributes can be downloaded (ESRI Shapefiles; after registering on the website) via the World Database On Protected Areas. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has recently released a Red List of Threatened Species that contains assessments for 49,000 species. Distribution maps (presence) for these species (with limited coverage) can be downloaded from the IUCN website.

A shape file showing location of hotspot regions is distributed by the Conservation International. The NEES Institute for Plants in Bonn has produced a number of global biodiversity maps including the map of plant species richness zones and floristic knowledge (Kier et al, 2005). Unfortunately, the GIS data is not available publicly from the Institute's website, but only high resolution figures. Kreft and Jetz (2007) recently produced a global map of plant species diversity (number of plant species) by using field records from 1,032 locations (map is available only in coarse resolution of 120 km). BirdLife International publishes a number of global maps indicating so called “Endemic and Important Bird Areas” (IBAs and EBAs).

The Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center provides access to numerous ecological layers and data of interest to global ecologists. One such product is the Global Biomass Carbon Map (Carbon density tones of C / ha), prepared for year 2000 (Ruesch et al. 2008). From their ftp, you can download a number of GIS layers of interest for ecological modelling (e.g. map of Eco-floristic zones, GLC2000 dataset etc).

Ecoregions are terrestrial, freshwater and/or marine areas with characteristic combinations of soil and landform that characterize that region. Olson et al. (2001) produced the Terrestrial Ecoregions global data set, which shows some 867 distinct eco-units, including the relative richness of terrestrial species by ecoregion. The legend for the map shown down-below is attached to the original grid map. A somewhat more generalized is the FAO's map of Eco-floristic regions (e.g. boreal coniferous forest, tropical rainforest, boreal mountain system etc.).

NOAA's NGDC prodives a free access to several global ecosystem maps including the Bailey and Hogg (1986) Ecoregions of the Continents. From their website, you can either choose to browse the maps interactively via a WMS or using KML files, or access it directly via ftp.