Spatial Nature Conservation Data in Europe: Compatibility, Compliance and Accessibility Issues

By Margaret Carlisle and David R. Green.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Spatial nature conservation data includes information such as the boundaries of legally Protected Sites, the distribution of species, and the extent of habitats and biogeographical areas. Traditionally such data have been regarded as the preserve of state level conservation agencies and as such have often been seen as inaccessible by other stakeholders. However, several factors have generated the need for interoperable, accessible and harmonised spatial datasets across all themes (including nature conservation themes) for the EU. The INSPIRE Directive ( is designed to address this issue by developing a Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) for the EU. The Nature-SDIplus ( project, building on earlier work by Nature-GIS (, has analysed Protected Sites datasets from 15 European countries in order to assess the current levels of compatibility with each other, accessibility to external stakeholders and compliance with the EU standards, as outlined by the INSPIRE Data Specification_PS_v2.0 ( This paper examines the results of this analysis with particular regard to the issue of utility of nature conservation science within society. It concludes that there is a great deal of work still required in order to bring all European spatial Protected Sites data up to the exacting standards of the INSPIRE Directive, but if this is achieved then a valuable resource for trans-boundary, ecosystem-oriented conservation and management will become available across Europe.

Keywords: GIS, SDI, INSPIRE, Nature Conservation, Protected Sites, Compliance, Compatibility, Accessibility

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.167-178. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.823MB).

Dr. Margaret Carlisle

Research Fellow, Department of Geography & Environment, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

Research Fellow, University of Aberdeen, for NatureSDIplus. Research interests include landscape ecology and GIS, the use of data modelling to map environmental objects and features, ecological risk assessment, economic evaluation of environmental services, use-conflict mapping and human impact evaluation. Educated at the Scottish Agricultural College/Napier University (BSc), University of Cambridge (MPhil) and University of Aberdeen (PhD). Several years experience as an environmental consultant, specialising in EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment).

David R. Green

Senior Lecturer, CMCZM, Department of Geography & Environment, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

Lead Investigator, University of Aberdeen, for NatureSDIplus. Senior Lecturer in Geography and Environment, specialising in the application of geospatial technologies to coastal management. Educated at the University of Edinburgh, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Toronto. Seconded to the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine (DEOM) at the University of Aberdeen. Other interests include landscape ecology, vegetation mapping, coastal management, visualisation, and precision viticulture. Past President of the EUCC – The Coastal Union; Editor in Chief of the Journal of Coastal Conservation, Planning and Management; Editorial Board of the Journal of Science Education. Past Editor of the BCS Cartographic Journal; Past Chairman of Association for Geographic Information. Vice Chair of the Scientific Council of ECNC.