Terrestrial Ecoregions GIS Data

Caitlin Dempsey


The land on Earth can be divided up in to areas of similar geography now as ecoregion. These ecoregions are areas that are geographically and ecologically similar and experience similar levels of solar radiation and precipitation.

Ecoregion is a concatenation of ecological region.

How Many Ecoregion are There on Land?

There are 846 ecoregions found on land which are classified into 14 different biomes such as forests, grasslands, or deserts. Ecoregions range in size from the 6 km2 area of St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks, an island group located in the Atlantic Ocean, to the East Siberian Taiga which spans an area of 39 million km2.

What are Ecoregion?

Ecoregions, in essence, represent the natural boundaries on Earth with each area representing land that contains distinct geography, vegetation, and natural communities that distinguish it from neighboring ecoregions. Ecoregion are formed by biotic and abiotic conditions: geology, landforms, soils, vegetation, land use, wildlife, climate, and hydrology.

These 846 ecoregions are categorized into 14 biomes and 8 biogeographic realms: Nearctic, Neotropic, Palearctic, Afrotropic, Indo-Malay, Australasia, Oceania, and Antarctic. Six of the biomes are forest and eight are non-forested.

Map showing the 14 biomes and 8 realms.  Map: RESOLVE Ecoregions dataset, 2017/2018.
Map showing the 14 biomes and 8 realms. Map: RESOLVE Ecoregions dataset, 2017/2018.

The first ecoregion map was developed in 2001. In 2017, an updated version was released to reflect “recent advances in biogeography.”

The 2017 ecoregions map can be viewed online and there is an associated site called Ecoregion Snapshots that was released by RESOLVE and One Earth that was developed as a guide to the ecoregions.

Screenshot showing the interactive ecoregions map.
Screenshot showing the interactive ecoregions map.

Access the Ecoregion GIS Data

The terrestrial ecoregions dataset is available both in shapefile format and as a Google Engine dataset.

• Shapefile (150mb zip) Licensed under CC-BY 4.0
• Google Earth Engine dataset

The GIS data contains several attributes including the name of the ecoregion, biome, and realm. The dataset also lists the NNH (Nature Needs Half) designation for each ecoregion.

Nature Needs Half is an effort by a coalition of scientists, conservationists, nonprofits, and public officials to protect 50% of the planet by 2030 in order to persevere biodiversity.

The NNH categories are defined as the following:

  • Half Protected: More than 50% of the total ecoregion area is already protected.
  • Nature Could Reach Half: Less than 50% of the total ecoregion area is protected but the amount of remaining unprotected natural habitat could bring protection to over 50% if new conservation areas are added to the system.
  • Nature Could Recover: The amount of protected and unprotected natural habitat remaining is less than 50% but more than 20%. Ecoregions in this category would require restoration to reach Half Protected.
  • Nature Imperiled: The amount of protected and unprotected natural habitat remaining is less than or equal to 20%. Achieving half protected is not possible in the short term and efforts should focus on conserving remaining, native habitat fragments.

Two of the attribute fields calculate the area and length of the ecoregion polygons in degrees.

Ecoregion References

Dinerstein, E., Olson, D., Joshi, A., Vynne, C., Burgess, N. D., Wikramanayake, E., … & Saleem, M. (2017). An ecoregion-based approach to protecting half the terrestrial realm. BioScience67(6), 534-545. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix014


Photo of author
About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

Free weekly newsletter

Fill out your e-mail address to receive our newsletter!