Release: Unprecedented Resolution of Biodiversity Map, Irrecoverable Carbon Layer, New Features Improve Decision-Making for Species


Update to Half-Earth Project Map includes improved resolution with 1KM species richness and rarity layers in North America, a new carbon layer showing how to protect species and address climate change, marine data, and new personalization tools to support policymakers.

Durham, NC – October 10, 2022. Ahead of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in November, and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in December, the latter where more than 150 nations are to establish a set of global targets toward achieving biodiversity goals, the Half-Earth Project Map is announcing a host of new tools and features to show patterns of biodiversity, human impacts, and protected areas to reveal conservation opportunities. The Half-Earth Project Map, a program of E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, emphasizes overall patterns of species richness and rarity. New features incorporate improved resolution of biodiversity layers, an irrecoverable carbon layer, added marine data, and new personalization tools, including translations into Spanish and Portuguese.

Visualizing scientific advances in understanding the health and habitats of species makes biodiversity tangible for policymakers at global, national, and local levels. In the U.S. and Canada, the Half-Earth Project Map now offers 1km species richness and rarity layers at an unprecedented level of detail, beneficial to conservation planning at actionable scales in North America (fig.1). These include species of mammals, birds, reptiles, butterflies, and amphibians.

Screenshot from the Half-Earth Map showing the "What does richness mean" section across North America.

Figure 1. Amphibian biodiversity richness at 1KM resolution, U.S., Half-Earth Project Map, 2022.

Policymakers in the United States are setting strategies to implement the “America the Beautiful Initiative,” which aims to restore, connect, and conserve 30 percent of US lands and waters by 2030 (30×30).

“As countries move to protect 30% of global land and seas on the way to Half-Earth, it’s critical we pick a network of places where we can do more for global biodiversity. These updates to the map ensure conservationists are empowered to ensure we leave no species behind,” said Paula J. Ehrlich, President and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and co-founder of the Half-Earth Project. The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation is an official observer to COP15.

A new “irrecoverable” carbon layer on the map identifies areas where habitat protection can also best achieve climate goals by preventing the release of additional CO2 (fig. 2). Irrecoverable carbon are stores of carbon, which once released through human activity, threaten goals to limit global warming to 1.5°C as established by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Screenshot from the Half-Earth Map showing the "Human pressures" section across South America.

Figure 2. Irrecoverable carbon, Brazil, Half-Earth Project Map, 2022.

“This is reimagining the way species conservation is done. Finding opportunities where we can partner with other global efforts will improve our ability to protect species now and combat climate change which threatens the quality of habitat,” said Walter Jetz, Scientific Chair of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and of the environment at Yale University.

In another update, the Half-Earth Project Map’s National Report Cards now show the marine exclusive economic zones for each country (areas where nations have stewardship responsibilities), marine protected areas, and calculate a Marine Species Protection Index score over time. National management is critical to protecting biodiversity. The high seas where the ocean is largely ungoverned, poses challenges to policymakers for the implementation of new marine protected areas.

Screenshot from the Half-Earth Map showing the "Custom area" filter.

Figure 3. Species in custom area of interest, Alabama, Half-Earth Project Map, 2022.

Map users can now draw or upload their own “area of interest” ranging from 1000 up to 35,000 in an area of their choosing, name, share, and save the URL for easy reference. In their area of interest, users can toggle through the unique combination of species found in a given area and then survey how local protection contributes to protection of their global range (figure3). And users will find additional species groups have been added to the map to increase the view of biodiversity beyond vertebrates to include insect groups such as ants, dragonflies, and butterflies.

Many of these features, including translations into several languages, beginning with Spanish and Portuguese, will be ready for Half-Earth Day®, the annual convening of scientists and conservation leaders.

Data Sources: Half-Earth Project Map – E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation (Mar 2022), Map of Life – Yale University (Mar 2022), World Database on Protected Areas (Jun 2021), World Database on Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (Jun 2021)

 About the Half-Earth Project

The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s Half-Earth Project aims to conserve half the Earth’s lands and seas to reverse the extinction crisis and safeguard the bulk of biodiversity for future generations. Please visit to learn more.

About Half-Earth Project Map

The Half-Earth Project Map is designed and developed by Vizzuality, and The Map of Life, a team of specialists in biodiversity, informatics, and area-based conservation, powered by Esri’s ArcGIS technology, and funded and led by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation whose mission is to reimagine the way conservation is done.

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