Map of Biodiversity Importance

A collaborative effort to identify the places most important for conserving at-risk species

Visit the Project Hub   Go to the Living Atlas

Through a landmark collaboration, NatureServe has released a portfolio of maps that identify areas critical to sustaining our nation's rich biodiversity. With support from Esri, The Nature Conservancy, and Microsoft's AI for Earth program, NatureServe and our network of natural heritage programs created a comprehensive set of habitat models for over 2,200 at-risk species in the contiguous United States, including those ranked as Globally Critically Imperiled (G1) or Globally Imperiled (G2), or those listed as full species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Analyzed in conjunction with protected areas boundaries, these data support mapping areas of high biodiversity importance—an invaluable input to guide effective conservation decision-making. 

To learn more about the project, visit the Map of Biodiversity Importance Hub site. To explore the data and layers available, see the Living Atlas. For more information, contact Regan Smyth at or Healy Hamilton at

This map displays richness of at-risk species outside of existing protected areas using modeled distributions for 2,216 of the most imperiled plants and animals in the United States. Brighter colors indicate where land and water protection will most benefit the least protected yet most threatened biodiversity in our nation.

Project Results

Dr. Healy Hamilton and Regan Smyth unveiled the Map of Biodiversity Importance results to an audience of over 5,000 federal partners at the Esri Federal GIS Conference in February 2020. Watch the video of their keynote address below to learn more about how the habitat models were created and how these high-precision, dynamic data can be used to inform conservation action. Final map products are available on Esri’s Living Atlas of the World—learn more in this ArcGIS blog.

Major Outputs

  • Unparalleled maps identifying areas of biodiversity importance critical to preventing extinctions in the contiguous United States
  • Habitat models for over 2,200 at-risk species that NatureServe can adapt to support a wide range of management needs

Project Highlights

  • From start to finish, the mapping was informed by the authoritative data and deep local knowledge of the NatureServe Network, the nation’s leading source of data and expertise for at-risk species.
  • Products include data for a taxonomically and ecologically diverse set of species, including vascular plants, aquatic invertebrates, and pollinating insects—as well as vertebrates.
  • Detailed habitat maps for each species were built using state-of-the-art machine learning and cloud computing resources from Microsoft's AI for Earth program.
  • Comprehensive, standardized metadata support transparency and model evaluation. 
  • A national library of over 200 high-resolution environmental data layers and a collaborative online model review tool will support continuous refinement of species habitat maps into the future. 

Scroll through the storymap below to see some of the exciting and surprising results from the project. For more information, contact or

Project Partners

Network Programs Involved

With additional project support in the form of data and species expertise from across the NatureServe Network.