24 September 2019

Operationalizing targets for biodiversity conservation and restoration

The Nature Map Consortium has introduced new global maps that integrate available data on biodiversity and carbon to assist country policies for biodiversity and land-based greenhouse gas emissions.

© Martinslezacek | Dreamstime.com

© Martinslezacek | Dreamstime.com

Countries need integrated maps of biodiversity and ecosystem services, including carbon, to design and implement national policies for halting and reversing the loss of biodiversity and for curbing net greenhouse gas emissions from land use. Yet, such maps are in short supply. To address this shortage, the first release of Nature Map Earth’s freely available global map of terrestrial biodiversity and ecosystem carbon stocks, designed to support governments in policy design, recently became available.

"These new maps are an important decision support tool for countries, as they prepare for the landmark climate and biodiversity conferences in 2020. We are ready to work with governments and their technical partners to support the design and implementation of ambitious national strategies for biodiversity and nature-based solutions. Nature Map can help countries integrate these policies into their national climate and biodiversity strategies," says Guido Schmidt-Traub from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

Nature Map was prepared by teams from IIASA, the International Institute for Sustainability (IIS) Rio, the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), and the SDSN with the support of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

Piero Visconti from IIASA explains: "For this first version of Nature Map, we consolidated unprecedented volumes of existing and new data using novel, cutting-edge scientific methods. We were able to include data from sources that were not previously available to policymakers. Our maps will be freely available and can be integrated with other spatially explicit information to support decision-making. We will continue to develop and improve these products, as new data on land use, biodiversity, and carbon becomes available."

The data is curated by UNEP-WCMC and will be available in Nature Map Explorer, a web portal designed for visualization and expert annotation on the preliminary outputs. As soon as possible, the data will be freely accessible via the UN Biodiversity Lab. In the coming months, Nature Map will also release additional data layers, including a global map of the intensity of human impacts on forests, such as logging activity, and on different types of forest management, for instance, planted or natural forests, or short rotation plantations.

"This map will highlight the remaining intact forests at a global scale and fill in gaps in the coverage of plantations and agroforestry," says Myroslava Lesiv, a researcher in the IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management Program.  

"We will soon launch a wider consultation on the data and maps. This will help identify gaps and weaknesses in the data, so that these can be filled. We are working with research groups around the world to ensure that additional high-quality spatial data on biodiversity and ecosystem services can be made available to policymakers to support ambitious policies and direct implementation. I am excited to see the mobilization in the scientific community and hope that we can contribute to breakthrough agreements at the CBD and UNFCCC in 2020," commented Neil Burgess from UNEP-WCMC

Following this initial release of the data, the Nature Map Consortium will launch a public consultation towards the end of October. They have invited interested governments, businesses, and civil society organizations to flag any questions they might have about the maps. They can contact the consortium to explore how the maps might support more ambitious biodiversity and climate strategies. Members of the Nature Map Consortium also call on scientists with additional data to get in touch. All data and findings will be subjected to independent, scientific peer review as soon as possible.

In late 2020, countries will convene in Kunming, China, for the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This landmark conference aims to adopt a global biodiversity framework for halting and reversing the dramatic decline of biodiversity around the world. Shortly thereafter, COP26 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will convene world leaders to increase the level of ambition in curbing greenhouse gas emissions and review long-term climate strategies.

Nature Map gratefully acknowledges financial support from Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI).

More information about Nature Map: www.naturemap.earth

Contact Nature Map Earth at:


Adapted from a press release distributed by the Nature Map Earth Consortium.

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Last edited: 25 September 2019


Piero Visconti

Research Group Leader and Senior Research Scholar Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation Research Group - Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program


Ansa Heyl

Interim Head of Communications and External Relations Communications and External Relations Department

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313