UN Biodiversity Lab Offers Spatial Data for Conservation, Development
Photo by Markus Spiske
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UNDP, UNEP and the Secretariat of the CBD launched the ‘UN Biodiversity Lab’ to support monitoring and informed decision making on biodiversity conservation and development challenges.

The interactive mapping platform offers a free, cloud-based tool that is expected to support CBD Parties in reporting on their progress and achievements.

It aligns with calls for innovative tools to monitor conservation trends and for enhanced access to big data for sustainable development.

5 July 2018: The UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment) and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) launched an interactive mapping program that supports informed decision-making on biodiversity conservation and development challenges. The groups launched the ‘UN Biodiversity Lab’ at the 22nd meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA 22).

According to UNDP, many countries lack access to geospatial data because of limited technical capacity. The UN Biodiversity Lab will address this limitation by providing spatial data via a free, cloud-based tool that users can access to inform conservation decision-making and support monitoring and reporting. The Lab’s website includes stories of how inclusion of spatial data in biodiversity and conservation planning has informed governments’ dialogue, policy and monitoring. For instance, Ecuador used spatial data to address deforestation, and South Africa protected coastal and marine resources after using open spatial data to inform stakeholder discussions.

Data covers protected areas, species, climate, land, marine areas, human impacts on natural systems and socio-economic data.

The Lab includes spatial data on protected areas, endangered species, climate and carbon, land cover, marine areas, human impacts on natural systems and socio-economic data. Data on ecosystem services, natural hazards and restoration will be added in the future. Going forward, the Lab is also expected to incorporate automated monitoring using artificial intelligence (AI).

At the launch event at SBSTTA 22 in Montreal, Canada, on 5 July 2018, UNDP and UNEP challenged the 196 Parties to the CBD to “double the number of maps used in their national progress reports to the CBD.” UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim described the Lab as “a vital part of our ongoing efforts to build a digital ecosystem of planetary data that is accurate and easy to use by countries, companies and citizens” in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The creation of the UN Biodiversity Lab aligns with calls for innovative tools to monitor conservation trends and for enhanced access to big data for sustainable development, such as in the ‘Nature for Development Declaration on Spatial Data.’ According to CBD Executive Secretary Cristiana Pașca Palmer, the Lab can “enable Parties to utilize spatial data to deliver on their commitments to the CBD and to fundamentally transform biodiversity conservation and sustainable use decision making and reporting.”

The UN Biodiversity Lab uses spatial data from UN agencies, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), the Global Resource Information Database (GRID-Geneva), the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and others. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) provided core funding for the Lab, which is powered by MapX. [UNDP Press Release] [UN Biodiversity Lab Website] [IISD RS Coverage of SBSTTA 22] [Nature for Development Declaration on Spatial Data]


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