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NatureServe Launches Conservation Data Portal for the Western U.S.
New Tools and Data to Drive Conservation Efforts Across the American West

[Washington, DC – July 9, 2024] NatureServe is proud to announce the launch of its Conservation Data Portal for the Western U.S., an innovative resource designed to support the prioritization of conservation resources across the vast and ecologically rich American West. Central to this initiative is the updated Map of Biodiversity Importance (MoBI), a critical tool for identifying areas essential for species survival that has been enhanced with new data and advanced technologies to better support conservation planning and action.

Impact and Real-World Applications 

The original version of MoBI, released in 2020, has been instrumental in conservation. Examples include its integration into the U.S. Forest Service’s Climate Risk Viewer and MoBI’s use in corporate evaluations of conservation value. The newly updated version of MoBI identifies new areas of biodiversity importance and ensures that our current understanding of what’s at risk, and what’s protected, can be adequately represented in conservation plans. The updated maps have also highlighted previously underappreciated biodiversity hotspots, such as the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers (hotspots for freshwater species) and the desert southwest (a hotspot for rare plants). 

Other data in NatureServe’s Conservation Portal for the Western U.S., including curated maps of at-risk ecosystems, freshwater biodiversity value, and climate change vulnerability, will support a wide variety of conservation partners, to understand multiple conservation values and develop science-based plans for a more sustainable future. 

Empowering Conservation with Cutting-Edge Data 

With biodiversity under unprecedented threat, NatureServe’s Conservation Data Portal for the Western U.S. provides essential analyses and tools grounded in the best-available science. This project was made possible with support the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Western Conservation program. By making these analyses publicly accessible, NatureServe empowers conservation actors – like scientists, communities, agencies, and policymakers – to make informed decisions based on their own conservation values, fostering the protection of Western species and ecosystems.  

Innovative Advances in the Map of Biodiversity Importance (MoBI) 

The resolution of MoBI is now 9x more precise than the initial release – moving from 990-meters to 330-meters, or about 10 down to 3 soccer fields. It includes over 600 species that have been newly identified as at-risk and reflects the latest information about protected areas in the United States. Thanks to recent investments in data development for pollinators, which are increasingly recognized for their important ecosystem service value, MoBI now includes an entirely new group of taxa: solitary bees. 

These improvements are possible due to technological advancements, including streamlined machine learning processes for producing habitat models. Bringing together 50 years of local knowledge on known species occurrences collected by NatureServe’s network of state partners with powerful predictive modeling techniques provides an unparalleled understanding of the places most important to conserve. These advances also support efforts such as the 30 by 30 initiative, an ambitious endeavor to conserve 30% of nature by 2030.

The map of biodiversity importance identifies areas of conservation value in the United States.

The 2024 update to the Map of Biodiversity Importance includes hundreds of additional species, including solitary bees, and many newly identified as imperiled. These maps, now 9X more precise, are crucial for conservation.

Collaborative Efforts and Technological Partnerships 

The success of NatureServe’s Conservation Data Portal for the Western U.S. is built on strong partnerships. The NatureServe Network, comprised of 60+ of state natural heritage programs and Canadian conservation data centers, has played a crucial role in surveying biodiversity and assessing conservation status. Additionally, technology partners like Esri have provided invaluable support, contributing expertise and resources that have been pivotal in advancing MoBI’s capabilities.

Public Access and Future Developments 

The updated MoBI datasets are available through Esri’s Living Atlas of the World and NatureServe’s open data portal, which also provides direct access to many of the other conservation data offerings. NatureServe also plans to publish individual species models that are inputs to MoBI on NatureServe Explorer Pro, further expanding the accessibility of critical conservation data and enabling a wide range of stakeholders, from conservation planners to researchers, to utilize the data in their efforts to protect biodiversity. 

Expert Perspectives 

"NatureServe’s Conservation Data Portal for the Western U.S. represents a major step forward in our efforts to conserve biodiversity in the American West," said Anne Bowser, CEO at NatureServe. "The enhanced Map of Biodiversity Importance provides the high-resolution data needed to make informed, strategic conservation decisions.

"The collaboration and technological advancements behind this project highlight the incredible potential for science and technology to drive conservation," added Lori Scott, Executive Director at NatureServe. "By integrating cutting-edge modeling techniques and expanding our species coverage, we are better equipped to identify and protect critical habitats, ensuring the preservation of our natural heritage for future generations.

Looking Ahead 

NatureServe’s launch of the Conservation Data Portal for the Western U.S., with its updated Map of Biodiversity Importance, marks a significant advancement in the field of conservation science. By providing robust, high-resolution data and tools, NatureServe is empowering conservationists to protect the biodiversity of the American West more effectively than ever before.

To access the portal, visit: NatureServe’s Conservation Data Portal for the Western U.S.

To view multimedia content visit: Media Folder - NatureServe's Conservation Data Portal for the Western US

Additional Partner quotes

"Effective conservation requires understanding where action is most needed, and also how to target efforts, and with what priority," said Sean Breyer, Esri Director of ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World. "We are proud to have worked with NatureServe to make this important biodiversity data publicly available so that organizations and individuals involved in conservation initiatives can make better-informed decisions and have a greater impact."

About NatureServe 

For 50 years, NatureServe has been the authoritative source for biodiversity data throughout North America. To protect threatened biodiversity, NatureServe works with over 60 organizations and 1,000+ conservation scientists in the U.S. and Canada to collect, analyze, and deliver standardized biodiversity information, providing comprehensive spatial data to meet both regulatory and conservation needs. NatureServe and its network partners develop and manage data for over 100,000 species and ecosystems, answering fundamental questions about what exists, where it is found, and how it is doing. Visit to learn more.