Support

FAQs

Frequently asked questions

What is UNBL?
UNBL is a UN platform that provides users with access to over 400 high quality global datasets on biodiversity, climate change, and sustainable development. Our goal is to enable decision-makers to use spatial data to put nature at the center of sustainable development.

I’m not part of an organization or government. Can I still access the data?
Yes! UNBL is for anyone who is interested in learning more about mapping, conservation, and sustainable development. Anyone is welcome to create an account and access our global datasets. In addition to a diversity of open data layers, the platform includes some data layers from third party organisations which may be subject to use restrictions.

Why do I need to log-in or create an account?
Creating an account gives you greater access to data and analysis features. In particular, your account will enable you to clip and download data from an area of interest.

How do I create an account?
Click the ‘data’ page of the UNBL website to launch the data app. Once this has loaded, select the account icon in the top right hand corner and choose ‘sign up’. Enter your email, name, country, and institution (optional), and set your password to sign up. You will receive an email within a few minutes. Follow the instructions in this email to verify your account.

Is UNBL open source?
UNBL is built on an open-source software package MARAPP, developed by the National Geographic Society, and managed by Impact Observatory Inc. For more information about the MARAPP package, please contact Impact Observatory or access the MARAPP codebase on Github.

What browser works best with UNBL?
The experience of UNBL is optimized for use in Google Chrome and is also compatible with the Microsoft Edge and Safari browsers. If your browser is not up to date, you may receive an error message. If you have any related issues that are not resolved, please don’t hesitate to contact us at support@unbiodiversitylab.org.

Is UNBL interoperable with other geospatial platforms?
Yes. UNBL can ingest inputs (data layers and shapes) from other geospatial platforms and produce outputs (data downloads) that work in other geospatial platforms (e.g. QGIS, ArcGIS, others). There is currently no direct integration with other geospatial platforms from within the UNBL.

What data does UNBL have?
UNBL highlights data related to biodiversity, protected areas, threats to biodiversity, land cover, carbon and climate change, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Biodiversity data types include ecological land use, biodiversity hotspots and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), species distribution aggregations, and recently released data on forest cover and connectivity from NASA-funded research. Protected Area data are provided by the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). Data on threats to biodiversity and human impacts include the human footprint, mining, and land use change. Information related to the SDGs includes data on argoeconomics, poverty and childhood mortality, water supply and catchment information for over 500 cities globally, above- and below-ground carbon stocks, and others. See here for a full list of data available on UNBL.

UNDP, UNEP, and UNEP-WCMC have adopted criteria to assist in identifying and curating the best available data layers on these themes in order to enable more streamlined and standardised analyses and reporting. These selection criteria will place data into one of three tiers, and consider aspects like data relevance, open-licensing and availability, transparency, and geographic coverage. This tiered system is intended solely to assist in the development and implementation of global datasets that are fit-for-purpose in supporting progress toward the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the emerging targets of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and related global targets.

The proposed criteria can be viewed here. We welcome feedback on these criteria to help inform their development and the accompanying methodology.

Disclaimer: The datasets on UNBL and other UN-level platforms have not yet been formally assessed against these criteria. An initial pilot assessment is underway.


Where does the data come from?
UNBL acts as an impartial, trustworthy data broker for over 40 premier research institutions and data providers. The source of each dataset can be found within the metadata. For our full list of data providers, please visit the about page.

Where can I find the metadata for each dataset?
UNBL requires all datasets to include the name, description, source, license, and citations. When selecting the layers, on the legend box there will be a small i symbol, ‘layer info’, at the right of the layer’s name. By clicking it, you can explore the metadata and learn more about the source.

What data licenses do you offer?
UNBL promotes open and free access to data, while fully recognising the efforts — both material and financial — of authors and data providers, including requiring full attribution of works to their authors. We encourage the use of open data licensing schemes, such as developed by the Creative Commons Foundation and the Open Data Foundation. We also fully honour the providers whose data usage and access licencing is much more limited. It is important to reiterate that UNBL is not a producer of data itself, and therefore does not licence data. We provide access to data per the conditions of use on those datasets themselves. Licensing information for each layer can be found in each layer’s 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 at support@unbiodiversitylab.org.

What web application standards does UNBL utilize?
UNBL is a web application which is compliant with following standards:

  • Fully documented using Open API 3.0 spec (formally swagger)
  • All available via an HTTP RESTful API
  • All security interfaces created oAuth 2.0 and JWT tokens


How do I cite UNBL?
UN Biodiversity Lab. 2021. https://unbiodiversitylab.org/. (Date Accessed: Day Month Year).

Please note that for any maps you create on the platform, you need to cite the data providers following the format indicated in the FAQ section on maps. This is a requirement for use of many datasets, and is a standard good practice.

Is there a limit to the number of data layers I can display?
There is no limit to the number of data layers that can be turned on and displayed on UNBL simultaneously. However, as you load more data layers you may find it difficult to see all of them simultaneously and may need to adjust their opacity. Click the User guide tab in this page for more information on how to style the data layers you have loaded.

How does UNBL display 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. UNBL displays spatial data with one attribute per data layer.

What analyses can I run on UNBL?
Standard metrics and analysis are provided for a number of key global datasets on UNBL and calculated for all of the provided countries and jurisdictions globally, as well as custom places created by users in their UNBL workspaces. On-the-fly analyses and custom metric creation are currently under development.

What are UNBL workspaces? How do I request a workspace?
UNBL workspaces provide a secure work area where users can upload national or subnational data  and share them with specific users. UNBL workspaces can serve as a common data repository, offer a collaborative work environment, and enable you to calculate dynamic indicators for a subnational or transboundary area of interest. These password-protected spaces enable you to control access to your data, and ensure data security through storage on UN servers. We encourage users to explore how UNBL workspaces can help you to build communities of practice to transform data to action.  To request a secure UNBL workspace please contact support@unbiodiversitylab.org.

How can I create a map?
Load the widgets or layers for which you would like to create a map, and take a screenshot!

If I am including a map I made in UNBL 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 clear and concise.
  • 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) and scale bar.
  • The map should be displayed with the correct citation (see below).

How should I cite the map?
We recommend this format:Title [Format]. Data. Date. Scale. Name of Person Who Generated Map. Map Generated by UNBL. URL. (Date Accessed).

Example: Mangrove Forest Soil Organic Carbon [PDF]. Sanderman et al. 2018. 1:25,000. Generated by James Bond. Map Generated by UNBL. https://map.unbiodiversitylab.org/earth?basemap=grayscale&coordinates=20,0,2&layers=global-mangrove-soil-carbon-01 . (19 June 2021).

What should I do if I notice a bug?
Please send us feedback through our support form  so we can fix the issue.

The application is running very slowly. What can I do?
Try reducing the number of applications that are running on your computer or closing the number of tabs open in your browser.

Can’t see an answer to your question in our FAQ? Feel free to contact our support team at support@unbiodiversitylab.org. You can also access the animated user guide by clicking on the user guide tab above. For a downloadable version, click here.

User guide

User guide

This user guide has been developed to walk you through the key tools and functions of the UN Biodiversity Lab. If you have any further questions, please visit our support page or contact us at support@unbiodiversitylab.org.

Before you begin exploring the data, register for UNBL.

  1. Click the ‘data’ page of UNBL website to launch the data app.
  2. Once this has loaded, select the account icon in the top right hand corner and choose ‘sign up’. Enter your email, name, country, and institution (optional), and set your password to sign up.
  3. You will receive an email within a few minutes. Follow the instructions in this email to then follow the email to verify your account.
  4. Once your account is verified, you can log-in using your email address and password each time you access the platform.
  5. You can log-out at any time by clicking on your user icon and selecting Sign Out.

Once registered on UNBL, you will be able to manage your account, including editing your user name, email, password, country, and institution. You will also be able to view and edit the UNBL workspaces you belong to.

To manage your account:

  1. Click on the account icon with your initials on the top right, then click on profile.
  2. Click on the edit icon to edit your username, email, country, and institution.
  3. To reset your password, click on SEND RESET EMAIL, then follow the instructions in the email.
  4. To leave any of the UNBL workspaces you belong to, click on edit, then on leave workspace. Save your changes.
  5. If this account is no longer in use, you can click on DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT and the bottom of this page. After deleting the account, you will need to sign up again to gain registered user privileges on UNBL.
  6. After saving your changes, click on RETURN TO MAP VIEW.

Navigating between the two pages is simple:

  1. To return to UNBL website from the data app, click the home icon on the top left of the map.
  2. To navigate to the data app from UNBL website, click on the Data tab in the main navigation bar.

UNBL is currently available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. The default language is English. To change the language, click on the EN icon on the right corner of the map and select the language you prefer. You can change your language on either UNBL website or data app.

There are several features that can assist you to navigate the map screen. These include:

  1. Move map: Use your mouse to drag the portion of the map you would like to view into the middle of the screen.
  2. Zoom in/out: Click on the +/- icons at the bottom right of the map. 
  3. Center place: Click on the center place button above +/-. This will re-center the map over the selected place.
  4. Hide left menu bar: Click on the arrow at the top of the left menu to collapse the layer panel for a larger map view. Click again to expand the panel.

 

There are several options for you to customize the base map. These include:

  1. Labels: The labels show the name of the places, including countries, states, cities, and representative landmarks. Click the toggle on to activate labels, and click off to hide. 
  2. Roads: Click on the toggle to show roads; toggle off to hide roads. 
  3. Map background: We offer grayscale and satellite options for the map background. To toggle between these options, click the small window at the left bottom right of the screen. 

 

UNBL can help you to navigate to a specific area of interest and access datasets and dynamic metrics for this area. On our public platform, areas of interest include countries, jurisdictions, and select transboundary areas. To search for an area of interest, you can either:

  1. Click on the PLACES icon, type the name of the country or jurisdiction you want to view into the search box, and select the desired result in the search result list.

OR

  1. Click on the PLACES icon, click to expand the filters box, and select your filter of interest.You then can select the desired place from the search result list.

UNBL offers at-a-glance metrics based on the best available UN-certified global spatial datasets. These metrics can be used to report on the state of nature and human development in your country. Available metrics include:

  • Tree cover loss (2001-2018)
  • Biodiversity intactness index (2015)
  • Enhanced vegetation index (2000-2019): the EVI can quantify vegetation greenness and indirectly reflect the productivity and quality of the vegetation, there are applications of this data in grassland monitoring, predicting primary production and biomass, degradation assessment, etc..
  • Global Land cover (2015)
  • Monthly fire activity(2018)
  • Protected areas (2019)
  • Terrestrial carbon density (2010)
  • Terrestrial human footprint (1993 & 2009)

To view the metrics on UNBL:

  1. Select an area of interest.
  2. Review the metrics in the left panel.
  3. Click on the SHOW ON MAP icon if you want to view this layer on the map. Click on the REMOVE FROM MAP icon or the remove layer icon on the legend to clear the screen.
  4. Click on the icon to view layer info, the info pages provide a brief description of the data, related paper to read and source links.
  5. To download summary data for the metric in .csv or .json format, click on the arrow icon . You can also download the data from source links on the layers’ info pages.

  1. Select the layer and load it to the map.
  2. On the left corner of the map, there will be a legend showing the name and symbology of the data layers on the map.  Click on the i icon to view the layer information. The information provides a description of the layer, source organization, citations, and links to download the data.

 

When selecting multiple layers, you can customize the map by adjusting their overlay order and opacity.

  1. To change the overlay order, click on the icon on the left of the layer name in the legend and move the icon up or down, as preferred. The top layer on the legend will be the top layer on the map. 
  2. To change the opacity, click on the icon. Reducing the opacity increases the transparency of the layer. For example, to visualize both tree cover loss and protected areas, you can position the tree cover loss layer above the protected areas layer, and adjust the opacity of protected areas to 60%. This creates a map that shows tree cover loss within the protected areas, as well as the overall loss across the country.
  3. To temporarily hide a layer on the map, click on the icon. To make it visible again, click on the  icon.

UNBL provides you with access to layers that show change over time. Some time series layers are visualized over multiple years with animation, others can be visualized by specific year via the dropdown menu, and some are a combination of both with the ability to visualize animations of particular years that can be chosen from the dropdown menu.

To visualize time series layers:

    1. Review our data list to confirm which layers are available as time series.
    2. Select the layer of interest.
    3. Customize based on the options available:
  • Animation only: Click on the play icon to the left to see the animation of changes over this time period.
    1. Specific year only: Select the time (year, month, or date) you want to show on the map by clicking on the timeline bar.
    2. Customized animation: Select the time range (year, month, or date) you want to show on the map by clicking on the timeline bar. Click on the play icon to the left to see the animation of changes over this time period.

Data layers on UNBL include the best available UN-certified global datasets related to nature and sustainable development, ranging from biodiversity, to ecosystem services, to socio-economic data. You can view these layers globally or for an area of interest.

1. Navigate to your area of interest, if preferred. You can also stay on the global view.

2. Click on the LAYERS icon.

3. To search for a layer, you can either:

  • Type the name of the layer you want to view into the search box, and select the desired result in the layer list.

OR

  • Click to expand the filters box, and select your filter of interest.You then can select the desired place from the search result list.

4. Click the toggle to the left of the layer name to load this layer to the map.

5. Click the toggle again or click the X icon on the layer info to remove this layer.

Sharing data layers is easy. To do so:

  1. Activate the layer(s) of interest on your map viewer.
  2. Copy the URL displayed in your browser.
  3. Share! Any data layers on our public platform will be accessible by anyone, regardless of whether they are a registered user.

 

 

Registered users on UNBL are able to clip raster layers to an area of interest and download them for use in an offline GIS software. This function allows users to access the underlying data while avoiding the bandwidth and storage required to download and work with a global dataset.

To clip a layer to your area of interest and download:

  1. Click on the PLACES icon and select your places of interest.
  2. Click on the … icon on the right of the country’s name, and click on Clip and Export Layers.
  3. Type the name or select the data you want to download. If the data contains layers of multiple years, select the year you want to download.
  4. Click download.
    • The selected data source will be clipped to the bounding box around the country.
    • There is a small buffer added to the bounding box, which will slightly enlarge the area of the clipped raster. This helps to ensure that any incongruities between the national boundary used in UNBL and the official national boundary file you may wish to use do not result in loss of data. This assumes that differences are potentially small. If this is not the case, please contact us at support@unbiodiversitylab.org for assistance.
    • Note: this is the raw data and will not include styling information.
  5. Access the downloaded .zip compressed file in your downloads folder once the download is complete.
  6. The downloaded data can be opened in any GIS software for further analysis.

  1. Select the layer of interest.
  2. Click on the layer info icon.
  3. Click on the link under LEARN MORE  to download the data from its original source. 
  4.  If you encounter any issues in accessing the data, please contact support@unbiodiversitylab.org for further support. 

 

  1. Customize the view of the layers you selected, as desired. 
  2. Use the screenshot function on your computer to capture the map.
  3. For inclusion in formal reports or publications, please ensure you meet mapping standards:
    • Maps should be clear and concise. 
    • Important text on maps should be clear and legible (e.g., cities, place names, legend items, etc.). 
    • The map should include basic mapping elements, including: a legend of relevant data layers and scale bar.
    • The map must provide correct attribution(s) and citation(s) for the data source(s) used in its creation, either on the map itself or in a caption describing the map, e.g.:

Example (if within the map)

Sources: Sanderman, et al., 2018; UNEP-WCMC and IUCN, 2021.

Example (if in a caption):

Figure 2 shows the estimated soil organic carbon present in mangroves (from Sanderman, et al., 2018) within protected areas in Vietnam (UNEP-WCMC and IUCN, 2021).

Also be sure to include full citations for datasets used in the references section of the document, e.g.:

Sanderman, J. et al. (2018) ‘A global map of mangrove forest soil carbon at 30 m spatial resolution’, Environmental Research Letters, 13(5), p. 055002. doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/aabe1c.

UNEP-WCMC and IUCN (2021), Protected Planet: The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) [On-line], 02/2021, Cambridge, UK: UNEP-WCMC and IUCN Available at: www.protectedplanet.net.

    • Include information on the map (or in the citation describing the map) on: who created the map; the date the map was produced on UN Biodiversity Lab; and a note indicating that the map was created using UN Biodiversity Lab.

Example:

Created by James Bond using UN Biodiversity Lab (www.unbiodiversitylab.org) on 14 February 2021.

    • Finally, ensure that you also include a citation for the map in the references section of the document. We recommend this format: 

Author. “Map title” [format]. Scale. (Date of Production). Map Generated on the UN Biodiversity Lab [web]. Version 2. UNDP and UNEP, 2021.

Example:

Bond, James. “Mangrove Forest Soil Organic Carbon within Vietnam’s Protected Areas” [map]. Scale not given. (14 Feb 2021). Map Generated on the UN Biodiversity Lab (www.unbiodiversitylab.org) [web]. Version 2. UNDP and UNEP, 2021.

We welcome suggestions on data that would enrich UNBL! If your data addresses biodiversity, conservation, or sustainable development at local, national, or international levels, please fill out this form.

Our team will review suggestions as they are received. UNDP, UN Environment Programme, and UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) have adopted criteria to assist in identifying and curating the best available data layers on these themes in order to enable more streamlined and standardised analyses and reporting. These selection criteria will place data into one of three tiers, and consider aspects like data relevance, open-licensing and availability, transparency, and geographic coverage. We welcome feedback on these criteria, available here, to help inform their development and the accompanying methodology.

To upload data for your institution’s use in a UNBL workspace, please see the next question on requesting a UNBL workspace.

We recognize that national data is often higher quality and better suited to countries’ needs for decision-making, monitoring, and reporting. UNBL offers free workspaces to stakeholders who need a secure area to access and use spatial data. Our workspaces can serve as a common data repository, offer a collaborative work environment, and enable you to calculate dynamic indicators for a subnational or transboundary area of interest. These password-protected spaces enable you to control access to your data, and ensure data security through storage on UN servers.

We encourage users to explore how UNBL workspaces can help you to build communities of practice to transform data to action.

To request a secure UNBL workspace please contact support@unbiodiversitylab.org or click on the UNBL workspaces tab on our support page and fill out the form.

You can access our user guide on UNBL workspaces here.

For further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at support@unbiodiversitylab.org

UNBL workspaces

Private workspaces

 

Are you working to conserve nature and foster sustainable development? Do you have national data you would like to visualize and analyze in combination with our global data layers? We offer workspaces for diverse stakeholders to use UNBL tools in a secure environment.

Learn more here.

Contribute

Contribute

Share dataSubmit a success story

Do you have data that would enrich the public platform of UNBL? Are you willing to be a part of a scientific community committed to the open sharing of spatial data? If you have global data that addresses biodiversity, climate change, or sustainable development, we want to hear from you.

 

Share your data

How are you using spatial data for insight and action in your work? UNBL works to highlight diverse use cases from around the world. Our team will work with you to build a photo essay or google earth story to highlight your achievements. Success stories will be shared in our Featured Stories section.

 

Tell your story

Contact us

Contact us

 

Please leave your message and contact information below and we will respond as soon as possible. Alternatively, you can email us at support@unbiodiversitylab.org.

United Nations Development Programme

304 East 45th Street
New York, NY 10017

info@unbiodiversitylab.org