Frequently Asked Questions

Can’t see an answer to your question in our FAQ? Feel free to contact our support team at You can also access our Resource Document Library to view and download technical guidance on using the Lab and creating inputs for the Sixth National Report.

Getting Started

  • What is the UN Biodiversity Lab?

    The UN Biodiversity Lab is an impartial online mapping tool that provides users with access to over 100 high quality global datasets to support conservation reporting and decision-making. In particular, the UN Biodiversity Lab supports stakeholder analysis and reporting on progress towards the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets. To support this goal, we provide data on biodiversity, protected area estates, biodiversity threats, and data related to the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • I’m not part of an organization or government. Can I still access the data?

    Yes! The UN Biodiversity Lab is for anyone who is interested in learning more about mapping and sustainable development. Anyone is welcome to create an account and access our global datasets. In addition to a host of open data layers, the platform includes some data layers from third party organisations which may be subject to use restrictions.

  • I am a policymaker. How can I access my national project?

    If you are a policymaker who is involved with the Sixth National Report (6NR) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, then a national project has been automatically created for you. You will need to contact the project administrator to request access. You can view our administrator list here. If you need support to get in touch with your country's administrator, please contact Annie Virnig ( or Antonio Benvenuti(

  • Why do I need to log-in or create an account?

    Creating an account with us gives you greater access to data and analysis features, including the ability to download data. It also provides you with access to views that are accessible to registered users only. For policymakers who are developing their Sixth National Reports to the Convention on Biological Diversity, registering for an account on UN Biodiversity Lab is the only way to access your national project. You will then need to request access to your national project from your country’s administrator (see above question).

  • How do I create an account?

    Click the “log-in” button, which is the second button from the left in the top toolbar. Simply enter your email into the login and registration screen. A one-time password will be sent to you by email to login. As UN Biodiversity Lab takes data security very seriously, we do not rely on user passwords that are vulnerable to hacking. Instead, unique passwords will be generated and sent to your email each time you login. If you use the same computer, and depending on your settings, login may be automatic without requesting a new password. To see more about logging in, see “How do I register or log-in?” in the animated User Guide.

  • Is UN Biodiversity Lab open source?

    The UN Biodiversity Lab data is powered by MapX, which is an open-source web mapping platform that creates customized mapping applications for environmental data. You can see the source code for MapX here. The data that has been compiled for visualization and dissemination in the UN Biodiversity Lab is often open license, meaning that you are welcome to explore and share anything you find on the website. However, if data providers have placed certain restrictions on their data sets, some of the functionality of UN Biodiversity Lab will be reduced for these specific layers (for example, they some data can be viewed but not downloaded or republished without permission from the original data provider).

  • What is the difference between UN Biodiversity Lab and MapX?

    The UN Biodiversity Lab is a customized application powered by, and built upon, the open-source MapX web mapping platform. The data in the UN Biodiversity Lab has been customized and curated to meet the reporting requirements of the Sixth National Report for the Convention on Biological Diversity. For more about MapX and customized geospatial solutions, click here to learn more.

  • What browser works best with the UN Biodiversity Lab?

    The UN Biodiversity Lab is optimized to work on the most recent version of Chrome and Firefox browsers. If your browser is not up to date, you may receive an error message. Please download the newest version of either Chrome or Firefox and access the site again. If you have any related issues that are not resolved, please don’t hesitate to contact us at

  • Is the UN Biodiversity Lab interoperable with other geospatial platforms?

    Yes. The platform has the capacity to live-stream data from other available geospatial data sets that comply with the Web Map Service (WMS) standard. Additionally, data that is uploaded to the UN Biodiversity Lab can be published via WMS/WFS/WCS. These features are only available to publishers or administrators of national projects. UN Biodiversity Lab can also receive and share data through APIs which are interoperable with MapX. Contact for details.


  • What data does the UN Biodiversity Lab have?

    The UN Biodiversity Lab highlights biodiversity data, conservation estates, threats to biodiversity, and data related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The biodiversity data includes ecological land use, biodiversity hotspots, key biodiversity areas, species distribution and NASA data. Conservations estates include the World Database on Protected Areas and community conserved areas. Threats to biodiversity include the human footprint, mining, and land use changes. SDG data includes hydrosheds for 3200 cities, poverty, and land tenures. The biodiversity data curated by the UN Biodiversity Lab focuses on helping countries report against five specific Aichi Biodiversity Targets. These include the following:

    • ABT 5: Halve or bring to zero rate of loss of habitats, significantly reduce degradation and fragmentation.
    • ABT 11: Conserve 17% of terrestrial and 10% coastal and marine areas, especially important biodiversity areas, important ecosystem services, through effective, equitable, representative well-connected protected areas and other effective area-based measures and integrated into landscapes and seascapes.
    • ABT 12: Prevent extinctions and improve and sustain species most in decline.
    • ABT 14: Restore and safeguard ecosystems that provide essential services – water, health, livelihoods – especially for women, indigenous peoples, local communities, and poor and vulnerable.
    • ABT 15: Enhance resilience and contribution of biodiversity to carbon stocks and restore 15% of degraded ecosystems

    UN Environment, UNDP and WCMC have identified and curated the best available data layers for each of these targets to enable more streamlined analysis and reporting. The list of available data layers may expand in the future.

  • Where does the data come from?

    The UN Biodiversity Lab acts as an impartial, trustworthy data broker for over 40 premier research institutions, including Alliance for Zero Extinctions, Birdlife, Flanders Marine Institute, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Google Earth Engine, GRID Arendal, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity (KNB), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA-Modis), the Ramsar Convention, and the US Geological Survey (USGS). The source of each dataset can be found within the metadata.

Tools and Functions

  • Can I perform an intersection or overlap between two datasets?

    Yes, all users can perform a visual, temporary intersection between two to five vector layers, one of which must be a polygon, using the highlight button available in the top toolbar and toolbox. Users can also enable an approximate overlap area estimation directly within the MapX platform. Publishers in National Projects can create new views out of overlaps for more accurate reporting and synthesis. For more information on how to perform an intersection analysis, see the see the offline User Guide.

  • What is the difference between spatial data and attribute data?

    Usually spatial datasets contain both spatial and attribute data. Spatial data pinpoints where something is located on the planet in an absolute sense. It is generally presented as geographic coordinates or an address. Attribute data is information attached to a specific coordinate that is not directly geospatial, for example the name of the structure or type of object. The UN Biodiversity Lab displays spatial data with one attribute per view.

  • What is the difference between a view and a layer?

    When data is uploaded to the UN Biodiversity Lab, it becomes a source layer, which then needs to be published and visualized as one or more views. Source layers can have many attributes, however views in UN Biodiversity Lab only visualize one attribute at a time. An example of this would be uploading spatial data on water bodies that has attributes for each point describing the type of water body, date of data collection, and source of water. While the source layer has multiple attributes, a view can only visualize one of these attributes on the map, such as type of water body. Views are what are selected and displayed on the map through the view panel, but the metadata information originates from the source layer.

  • Is there a limit to the number of views I can display on the map?

    There is no limit to the number of views that can be turned on and displayed on UN Biodiversity Lab simultaneously. However, as you load more views you may find it difficult to see all of them simultaneously and may need to adjust their coloration or transparency. For more details on how to do this, see page 25 of the UN Biodiversity Lab offline User Guide.

Story Maps

  • What is a story map?

    A story map is a dynamic way to communicate spatial data by combining a narrative, interactive maps, photos, and videos. Story maps are a simple yet powerful way to inform, engage, and inspire your audience with any story you want to tell that can be referenced on a map. Story maps harness the power of maps by bringing data to life.

    The UN Biodiversity Lab story map engine allows users involved in national projects to independently build story maps without any GIS or programming skills. Story maps can cover a wide variety of subjects and are easy to build.They are fully interactive and users can explore the attributes of the underlying data. To see an example, click here.

  • How can I make a story map?

    Only users with publisher and administrator rights in national projects can create story maps. To learn more about creating a storyboard for your story map before developing it on the platform, click here.When you have completed the storyboard, view this link here for a guidance document on building your own story map.

  • How can I share my story map?

    You can click the sharing icon, located in the view toolbar beneath the abstract of the story map, to receive a customized link to embed the story map into your blog, website, or online content through an iFrame, or a link to share the story map through email or social media.

National Projects

  • What is a national project?

    The national project is a customizable, cloud-based private workspace on UN Biodiversity Lab created specifically for GEF-eligible Parties to the CBD. If you are a non-GEF eligible Party to the CBD and would like to create a National Project, please contact This national project space customizes the data available in the public data catalogue for your country:

    • It is pre-populated with all data layers from the public data catalogue that are relevant in your country (e.g., there will not be mangrove layers in landlocked countries).
    • You can upload your own national and regional data to your national project with top data security and privacy assurances.
    • You can visualize and analyze your national and regional data in combination with the other datasets hosted on the platform, for example by calculating the overlapping area of two intersecting vector data layers.
  • What are the functions of a national project?

    Beyond offering a secure data pool for you and your colleagues, creating your own project also offers a suite of additional features. In terms of analysis, you will be able to upload your own data to your project and integrate it with other datasets hosted on the platform. You will be able to customize your project and save it for access from any computer, with any bandwidth. You can also make story maps in our story map engine, using data already available in the platform and your own, combined with photos, videos and narrative. Story maps can be shared with colleagues or on media channels, and can also be downloaded for offline access or presentations.

  • Who is the administrator to your country’s national project?

    The administrator list for all GEF-eligible countries can be found here. The administrator was selected because they are the UNDP or UN Environment focal point for the 6th National Reports project.

    If you are the UNDP or UN Environment focal point for the 6NR project, you were automatically designated the Administrator. An email granting you the access to the UN Biodiversity Lab National Project was sent to you. If you have not received this email, please email or administrator is the only person who can add or remove members, including additional administrators, from the national project for your country. If you are a non-GEF eligible Party to the CBD and would like to create a National Project, please contact

  • How can you change your country’s UN Biodiversity Lab administrator?

    If the UNDP or UN Environment focal point for the 6NR project is not the correct administrator for your National Project, we can easily change this. If you want to change your country’s administrator, please contact your UNDP or UN Environment focal point (UNDP:Marion Marigo; UN Environment: Michele Poletto; Antony Kamau).

    If you are an administrator and would like to add an additional administrator, you can do so by upgrading the permissions of any other member of your national project to administrator. To do this, see “Invite Members and Define Roles” in the online User Guide.

  • What are the user privileges?

    User privileges determine who can see what data, and also what actions are available with certain datasets. There are four user categories. You will only be able to view or interact data that corresponds to your user category.

    • Public: Unregistered users, who will have the most limited interaction with the platform. Public users are able to view ‘public’ data only.
    • Members: Registered users can read views and source layers that are set for ‘public’ and “users”. In addition, registered users can download source layers.
    • Publishers: Users with ‘publisher’ privileges can create views, upload source layers, publish source layers and views for all types of users in their national project and can edit existing views that are available for ‘public’, ‘user’ and ‘publisher’.
    • Administrators: Users who have ‘publisher’ privileges and can also change the status of other accounts. If you are the owner of a project, you have administrator privilege over your project. Project administrators cannot publish publicly beyond their project.
  • What if I am involved in multiple projects ? How can I access each of them?

    If you are involved in multiple projects, when you click the My Projects button in the upper right corner of the data catalogue, a dropdown menu will ask you to select the project you want to enter. The projects that you are a member of will display at the top.

  • I am a public user. Can I create a personal project?

    For now, project functionality is reserved for Sixth National Report teams. We hope to expand this to broader user groups soon. If you would like to explore creating a private project for your organization, please contact

  • Can I add members to my national project?

    Only administrators can add or remove members from their projects. You will need to consider the level of access that each user should be granted as this will determine their privileges to edit, create, delete and share whatever is in your project. For more details on how to add members to your national project see “Invite Members and Define Roles” section in the online User Guide.

  • Can I look at other projects? How do I make my national project private?

    Public projects appear in the "List of Projects" dialogue that appears when you navigate to the "My Projects" tab. If you are a registered user, you can see the name of other projects if they are set to public, and see the views in them only if that view is set to public. If you would like to make your project private, meaning that it will not be displayed in the "List of Projects", see “Project Configuration” in the online User Guide.

  • How do I find my project?

    Every time you access the “My Projects” tab through the UN Biodiversity Lab, the projects that you are a member of will appear at the top. If you do not have access to your project, make sure that you are logged in with the email that you use to access your project. If you need support to help access to your country project please contact us at or the administrator of your project.

  • Why can’t I see my project?

    Make sure you are logged in to the platform with the same email you used to access your project the first time. You can check by clicking the profile icon in the button that is second from the left corner in the map window. If you still can’t find your project, contact

Uploading and Analyzing the Data

Exporting maps

  • How can I make a map?

    For detailed instructions, see “How do I make a map?” section in the online User Guide.

  • What format can I export the maps into?

    PNG and PDF.

  • If I am including a map I made in UN Biodiversity Lab in a formal report or publication, how do I ensure I meet mapping standards?

    Maps included in reports should meet several different standards.

    • Maps should be sufficiently high resolution (Pixels Per Centimeter/Inch - PPC/PPI) for them to be clearly visible. Maps from UN Biodiversity are exported at ~430 PPI in PDF format and ~72 PPI in PNG format, both of which are acceptable for inclusion in your 6NR. If you use a program such as Powerpoint to redesign the maps, ensure you export your final maps at a high enough resolution.
    • Maps should be clear and concise. One way to help focus attention on your country is to change the shadowing effect around countries.
    • Important text on maps should be clear and legible (e.g., cities, place names, legend items, etc.).
    • The map should include basic mapping elements: legend (of relevant data layers), scale bar, and directional (North) arrow.
    • Correct attribution for all the data sources used in creating the map. This information can be found in the abstract of the view, by clicking on the information button in the view, or is exported in a JSON format when you download the map.
    • The projection of the map. In UN Biodiversity Lab this is WGS 84.
    • The owner of the data and data access rights. This should include the rights, restrictions and ownership of any national level data from your government that you may be using.
    • The date the map was produced.
  • How should I cite the map?

    We recommend this format:

    Title [Format]. Data. Date. Scale. Name of Person Who Generated Map. Map Generated by the UN Biodiversity Lab. Name of Software. URL. (Date Accessed).

    Example: Mangrove Forest Soil Organic Carbon [PDF]. 2018. 1:25,000. Generated by James Bond. Map Generated by the UN Biodiversity Lab. link to map. (19 June 2018).

Metadata and Citations

Data Policy and Integrity

  • What is the data integrity assessment framework?

    All uploaded data undergoes the data integrity assessment framework, at the discretion of the data uploader. The integrity of each data layer is assessed using a standardized set of questions for each of the following four categories: (1) Reliability; (2) Technical Accessibility; (3) Openness; and (4) Sustainability. The level of compliance with each element of the data integrity standards is established in the course of the assessment. The results are contained within a database that is managed by UN Biodiversity Lab, together with data custodians. Following completion of the data integrity assessment, the results of the assessment are shared with the data custodians who are given the opportunity to take remedial actions to improve results prior to publication of the data sets and corresponding data integrity scores. You can access each public view's data integrity assessment score in the metadata. To learn more, access the guidance document here.

  • What data licenses do you suggest?

    The UN Biodiversity Lab promotes the use of licenses developed by the Creative Commons Foundation and the Open Data Foundation, which have been developed for sharing databases. We are currently developing a more strategic data license information page.

  • What should I do if I believe a dataset is inaccurate?

    We are always looking to improve our data. If you are experiencing issues with a dataset or believe it is outdated or inaccurate, please contact our support team.

  • Does the UN Biodiversity Lab conform to OGC standards?

    Currently it does not, although we are working towards conforming to OGC standards of open data. All data published in UN Biodiversity Lab is published in GeoServer in formats compatible with OGC standards: WMS, WFS, WCS. The UN Biodiversity Lab team is also working to align the platform with the CSW standard, which will then complete the above list with a fourth format compatible with OGC standards.