NBN Atlas Wales update

Exciting progress has been made in restructuring the way that biodiversity data are displayed across the UK.  

Following the development of the NBN Atlas Scotland, Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales have recognised the potential improvements to the way our collective biodiversity data are viewed and used through the Atlas platform. They have therefore, secured funding for the development of a NBN Atlas Wales. This exciting news follows on from the successful pilot project in Scotland,  and will help revolutionise the way that species data and interactions are viewed, interpreted, analysed and used in Wales.

The NBN Atlas Wales will be built using the Atlas of Living Australia’s open source biodiversity data infrastructure and is intended to deliver on the fourth Strategic aim of the NBN Strategy to: Provide the best biological information management infrastructure and ensure stability, security and usability for an increasingly mature data management infrastructure.

The NBN Atlas Wales will offer the ability to create a Welsh view, bringing together species and habitat data and offering functionality including the ability to view and upload photographs, search for biological data by predefined areas, by postcode or by polygon search tools, find organisations working in a particular area (geographic or taxonomic) and create alerts for species records.  Additionally, the NBN Atlas Wales will provide bilingual functionality, offering users the option to switch between Welsh and English language pages – functionality which has not previously been available via the NBN Gateway.  

This project is part of a work programme to build Atlas infrastructure for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and use the same scalable platform to create an NBN Atlas covering the whole UK. Each of these five atlases would have the same functionality and same basic design and be supported by a single database but offers users a more focussed, local view of the national data holdings.

How can I get involved?

A stakeholder workshop will be held w/c 25th April to bring together key and interested parties to learn more about what is required from this Welsh Atlas.

The aim of the workshop will be to discuss the NBN Atlas Wales and what this might look like including the design and functionality required.  Although the Welsh Atlas will build on the functionality already in place in Scotland, this is an opportunity to discuss the specific needs of users within Wales.

Details about this workshop will be communicated over the next fortnight, however if you are interested in attending please contact support@nbn.org.uk and we can add you to the mailing list.

You can also follow developments on the Atlas of Living Wales through the Twitter feed @AoLWales.

Want to know more…?

Why are we building new infrastructure?

In 2015 the NBN Secretariat published a Technical and User Review of the NBN Gateway that came out of consultation and workshops with several hundred people. The general conclusion was that although NBN Data Partners have been hugely successful in sharing biological data (more than 120 million records), the infrastructure is not now fit for future purpose. Significant investment would be needed to meet the growing needs of both Data Partners and users or an alternative strategy should be adopted.

The Atlas of Living Australia completed by CSIRO in 2010, provides a suite of online tools for capturing, accessing and analysing biological and related environmental data. Designed to fulfill a broad spectrum of user-needs in flexible ways, the open source framework has enabled it to be replicated in other countries.

The Atlas infrastructure was chosen as the best option for the UK because of the scalability of the platform, the diversity of data types that it can accommodate, the global use of the atlas platform and the data visualisation and analysis tools. It will deliver all the functionality being requested by NBN members during last year’s review as well as matching the functionality provided by the NBN Gateway.

Who has Welsh data?

There are currently 83 NBN Data Partners that have shared data for Wales via the NBN Gateway. In addition there are many more organisations and people with data that could be shared via the atlas platform. The NBN Secretariat will now start work with all these NBN Data Partners to establish new license agreements for these data so that they can be transferred to the NBN Atlas Wales.

How will I supply data to the NBN Atlas Wales?

Data supply will be via the current NBN Gateway data upload system. The data exchange format will remain the same and all data should be sent to data@nbn.org.uk

In the future, Data Partners will be able to ‘push’ data directly to the Atlas at the time of their choosing (daily, monthly, yearly).

How are sensitive species managed on the NBN Atlas platform?

All sensitive species data held within the atlas are automatically displayed at a resolution appropriate to the sensitivity of the species in accordance with the Natural Resources Wales Welsh sensitive species list. There is no need for data providers to pre-blur their sensitive species data.

What resolution can data be stored and displayed at?

Data held in the Atlas can either be displayed as point or grid resolution data. The available resolutions include:

  • Point data
  • 100m
  • 1km
  • 2km
  • 5km
  • 10km

What data licenses are used for the NBN Atlas?

Each dataset will be assigned a creative commons licence, chosen by the contributing data partner. This licence will outline under what circumstances the data can be used. The type of data licence assigned can be found in the dataset metadata and within any data download. When responding to requests for enhanced access to sensitive species the Data Partner will also be able to select one of these licenses.

The available data licences are CC0, CC-BY, CC-BY-NC, and OGL.

  • CC0: ‘No rights reserved’ licence. All data is in the public domain
  • CC-BY: This license allows others to use data, even commercially, as long as the original data creator is credited.
  • CC-BY-NC:This license allows others to use data only for non-commercial purposes. The original data creator must be credited.
  • OGL: Open government licence.

What does ‘commercial’ use mean under a CC-BY-NC license

You may not use the material for commercial purposes, where these are primarily intended for commercial advantage or monetary compensation.

Are records submitted directly to the Atlas assigned a data license?

Records submitted directly to the NBN Atlas Wales using the online recording form will be assigned a CC-BY license making these data fully available for onward reuse.

Will web services change?

Yes, web services will change from the current NBN Gateway REST services.

The web services for the Atlas of Living Wales will be modeled off the API for the Atlas of Living Australia, with different URLs.  Please also note that the services for the NBN Atlas Wales will be a subset of these services given the NBN Atlas Wales does not use all the components of the Atlas of Living Australia.

Once the development for the NBN Atlas Wales is finished, a complete list of the web services will be made available.  

The NBN Secretariat recognises that for some NBN Data Partners this will involve considerable effort to rewrite their specific web services. The Secretariat will support NBN Data Partners with this change to ensure they can make full use of the available web services.

What will happen to the NBN Gateway?

The intention is that the Atlases will eventually replace the need for the NBN Gateway, as these sites deliver considerably more functionality than the NBN Gateway and offer increased flexibility in the way data partners can share their biodiversity data.

Once each country in the UK has their own Atlas up and running, and a UK overview has been established, we will ensure that we have permission to transfer all of the data from the NBN Gateway, at which stage we can look to phase out the NBN Gateway.

In the meantime we regard the NBN Gateway as the critical national data aggregation tool for the UK. We will communicate regularly and well in advance of any plans to remove the NBN Gateway from general use. All data partners will be informed and all queries and concerns will be taken into account before we discontinue the NBN Gateway’s service.


We hope that you are as excited as we are about this great progression for biological data infrastructure, and we are thrilled to have Wales as the latest country to join the Network on its journey.


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