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The challenge

Australia's Biodiversity information was fragmented and inaccessible

A major barrier to Australia's biodiversity research and management efforts has been the fragmentation and inaccessibility of biodiversity related data. Data and information on Australian species has been, and still is, generated and housed in museums, herbaria, collections, universities, research organisations, and government departments and agencies.

Obtaining an integrated suite of records and data sets from these groups involved considerable time and effort, and often resulted in incomplete information.

To overcome these issues, Australia's biodiversity information needed to be aggregated, federated, connected and made easily discoverable and available by the users and contributors of this data.

Our response

The Atlas of Living Australia

The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), is an e-infrastructure that is funded by the Australian Government via its National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). It is a collaborative partnership of organisations that have stewardship of biological data and expertise in biodiversity informatics, including museums, biological collections, community groups, research organisations, government (state and federal), and natural resource managers. CSIRO acts as the lead agent in supporting delivery to the NCRIS program.

ALA's new phylogenetic tools integrate phylogenetic trees and spatial mapping. Here, the occurrence of Acacia species from the clade highlighted by the blue node is mapped and coloured by species.

The ALA was established in 2006, and the ALA portal went live in 2010. It delivers a centralised web-based infrastructure to capture, aggregate, manage, discover and analyse all classes of biodiversity data and associated information, through a suite of tools and spatial layers for use by research, industry, government and the community.

Its vision is to lead the digital transformation in sharing biodiversity knowledge thereby supporting and enabling high quality research and innovation outcomes to address national and global challenges.

It supports a host of activities by its stakeholders from research, biodiversity discovery and documentation, environmental monitoring and reporting, conservation planning, biosecurity activities, education and citizen science, together with enterprises and organisations leveraging off the open infrastructure to create and enhance their own services and products.

Since 2010, the ALA team has worked to aggregate Australia's biodiversity information and to make it available online via the ALA website.

The results

Significant efficiency gains for biodiversity data management and on-ground intervention and actions relating to biodiversity

There has been significant growth in the use and uptake of the ALA and it has influenced cultural change in the biodiversity data collection, research, assessment, and policy communities. As both a direct and indirect consequence of the ALA, there are new products and services generating value for research, industry, government and community groups and increases in productivity, efficiency and innovation (applications) in various sectors across these key stakeholder groups.

A cost–benefit analysis was performed and found that for every $1 invested in the ALA there is at least $3.5 economic value created. The ALA provides very good value for money, even when conservative assumptions are used.

  • The annual value delivered by ALA is at least $26.9 million
  • The Return on Investment ratio is 3.5:1

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