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Biodiversity is the variability among living organisms from marine, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part. Biodiversity includes the variety of species and ecosystems (Convention on Biological Diversity). Because of its significance for ecosystem functions and its intrinsic value biodiversity needs to be protected.


There are several databases available providing information on protected areas and biodiversity hotspots. However, a single database might not be enough to reflect the biodiversity situation in a country accurately. Especially meta databases, which compile data from several countries, sometimes have shortcomings. These meta databases depend on reporting from national agencies or inter-regional agencies (e.g. the European Environment Agency). Due to the complex reporting structure and occurring delays, the data of one country is sometimes not up-to-date or even misrepresented in the meta database. That‘s why GRAS acquires data of protected areas directly from the responsible national government agencies. Furthermore, a national databases might not cover all aspects of biodiversity. For this reason, GRAS also integrates global databases from renowned international organizations, NGOs or research institutes to complement the information about protected areas with information about primary forests, biodiverse areas or other areas relevant for biodiversity conservation (e.g. Important Bird Areas).

The biodiversity layers in the maps of the Countries show protected areas and biodiverse areas and are compiled from global, inter-regional (European Union), national and sub-national databases. GRAS researched and compiled the best available data sources for each country. The integration of complementary data sources ensures that a complete picture of biodiversity is painted.

The research for eligible databases is a continuous process. In a consequence, GRAS’ data sources are updated or extended dynamically in order to supply the user with the best available data sources. Feedback from users and external stakeholders is integrated. All biodiversity databases used in GRAS are selected according to specific criteria regarding content, data source, data quality, data format and availability of data.

Please learn more about the assessment and selection process of biodiversity databases in Methodology.

Example Brazil

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) supported GRAS with the assessment and compilation of biodiversity databases relevant for Brazil. TNC identified global, national and sub-national datasets and overlayed them in order to cover and display all areas relevant for biodiversity conservation. The following datasets were used (please see the more detailed descriptions of the databases in Data per country):

Intact Forest Landscapes Intact Forest Landscapes show unbroken expanses of natural ecosystems within forests without signs of significant human activity and at least 50,000 hectares in size (Potapov et al. 2008).
National System of Units of Conservation (SNUC) The National System of Units of Conservation - Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conservação da Natureza (SNUC) comprises nationally designated protected areas which are called units of conservation. The federal units of conservation are divided into two large groups according to their strictness of protection: Full protection and sustainable use.
PROBIO In a process based on systematic conservation planning principles the Brazilian Ministry of Environment identified  important areas for biodiversity conservation for each biome in Brazil. These areas are not legally protected such as National Parks, but they are observed when a license for an enterprise is requested, especially if the type of activity is identified as potentially high hazard to the environment.