About NBN Atlas Scotland

The NBN Atlas Scotland is an online tool that provides a platform to engage, educate and inform people about the natural world. It helps improve biodiversity knowledge, opens up research possibilities and changes the way environmental management is carried out in the UK.

The NBN Atlas Scotland is innovative because the combination of the multiple sources of information about UK species and habitats, and the ability to interrogate, combine, and analyse these data – in a single location – has not been done before, on this scale.  It aims to facilitate learning about and understanding the UK’s wildlife.

The National Biodiversity Network

The National Biodiversity Network (NBN), a registered charity,  has been championing the sharing of biological data in the UK since 2000, with the aim of improving the availability of high resolution and high quality data to provide the evidence base for all environmental decision-making in the UK.

Part of Scotland’s environment web

The NBN Atlas Scotland is part of Scotland’s environment web network. This network is linked through the centralised Scotland’s environment portal and incorporates a growing network of trusted and authoritative sources of more detailed and specialised environmental data. This network consists of websites for users with an interest in more specific topic based data sets and who wish to carry out more detailed data analysis, and the websites often publish data on specific environmental topics. View the list of websites that make up the Scotland’s environment web network.

NBN Atlas Scotland Infrastructure

The NBN Atlas Scotland is based on the Atlas of Living Australia infrastructure. The National Biodiversity Network has taken this open source platform and redesigned and remastered it in some places – in response to stakeholder needs – to create a bespoke system that is exceptionally useful for UK users.

By adapting an existing platform, costs have been minimised and has resulted in a more powerful and functionally integrated end product.

As the Atlas of Living Australia platform is open source, many other countries around the world have used the same system. This makes our UK biodiversity data compatible with other countries’ biodiversity data and allows users to compare and share data globally.

There will eventually be separate Atlases for each of the four countries of the UK of which the NBN Atlas Scotland is the first and is continuing to be developed, much of the development being as a result of user feedback.

Moving technology forward

The NBN Atlas Scotland is the successor to the NBN Gateway.  It has much more advanced functionality than the NBN Gateway and is more intuitive to use.  The NBN Atlas Scotland, uniquely, allows users to interrogate species records, habitat, climate and soil information, geographical boundaries and to use extremely powerful mapping tools through a single portal.  It is also simple to interrogate your own biological records and habitat information, either in isolation or combined with additional information from the online database, as well as downloading and exporting maps and reports or summaries for your own use.

The data partner pages of the NBN Atlas Scotland can help to link up groups who are working on similar projects, or help enthusiastic amateur biological recorders find local groups or recording schemes in their area.  The NBN Atlas Scotland launched on 1st April 2017.

Open access

Taking the views of the range of NBN members into account the NBN Atlas Scotland is open access by default, except in relation to sensitive species which are restricted.

Every record that is held on the NBN Atlas Scotland is licensed with one of three Creative Commons Licences or an Open Government Licence (OGL). The Creative Commons Licences offered are:

You can find out more information on Creative Commons licences.

The OGL Licence is for government datasets and is more or less equivalent to the CC BY license. The purpose of the licences is to ensure complete clarity over the permitted uses of data, and to ensure that all NBN data are compatible with GBIF’s licensing standards. The NBN is the UK node for GBIF and encourages data to be shared further than just within the UK.

The NBN Gateway had 120 million records that weren’t available for commercial or research use and many of these records were not visible to the public at all.  By contrast, 81% of datasets assigned to the NBN Atlas have been given either Creative Commons with Attribution (CC BY), Creative Commons no rights reserved (CC0)) or Open Government Licence (OGL) licences, making them open and available to all for any (even commercial) purpose. The remaining 19% have a CC BY-NC (Creative Commons with Attribution, Non Commercial) licence associated with them, which still allows open use of the data, only restricting commercial use.

This will revolutionise the use of UK biodiversity data, enabling it to be shared, analysed and researched widely – so that high quality data is freely available to provide the evidence base for environmental decision making, or for the use of the UK’s professional and citizen scientists to better understand and learn about the UK’s rich biodiversity.

More information

For more information about the NBN Atlas Scotland or the NBN Atlas, please email the team

If you would like to provide data, please read the information on how to share your data.