I'm looking for a shapefile with this kind of information, only at considerably higher detail. In North America, ecoregions are classified by levels and grouped by vegetation type at much higher detail than on the linked map (which is of similar detail as the 14 WWF biomes). Using that classification, the data I'm looking for should be around level II or level III. E.g. it should differentiate between tropical rainforest, subtropical rainforest, and mangrove forests, and also it should with at least moderate accuracy show the tree line and the snow line in alpine regions.

(I found a WorldGrids raster file at somewhat high detail but it has a couple of problems, e.g. it shows actual vegetation rather than biomes, and I'm really looking for a shapefile anyway.)

3 Answers 3


The WWF ecoregions are the original Olsen et al., (2001) classification units. If this is what you are after I would recommend using The Nature Conservancy modification to Olsen that deals with some of the known issues with the original classification.

My preference is the Brown et al., (1998) classification and its Rehfeldt et al., (2012) modification but, it is only available for North America. I would highly recommend against using Bailey's (1983) classification. I have consistently found that incorporating geology into the classification convolves many vegetation and biophysical processes.

There is a relevantly new USGS global ecosystem classification (Sayre et al., 2014) that may be what you are after. The methodology is presented in "A New Map of Global Ecological Land Units — An Ecophysiographic Stratification Approach". The data is available from the USGS Global Ecosystems website.


Bailey, R. G. 1983. Delineation of ecosystem regions. Environmental Management 7: 365-373.

Brown, D.E., Reichenbacher, F. and Franson, S.E. (1998). A Classification of North American Biotic Communities. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah. 141p.

Olson, D. M., Dinerstein, E., Wikramanayake, E. D., Burgess, N. D., Powell, G. V. N., Underwood, E. C., D'Amico, J. A., Itoua, I., Strand, H. E., Morrison, J. C., Loucks, C. J., Allnutt, T. F., Ricketts, T. H., Kura, Y., Lamoreux, J. F., Wettengel, W. W., Hedao, P., Kassem, K. R. (2001). Terrestrial ecoregions of the world: a new map of life on Earth. Bioscience 51(11):933-938.

Rehfeldt, G.E., N.L. Crookston, C. Sáenz-Romero and E.M. Campbell (2012) North American vegetation model for land-use planning in a changing climate: a solution to large classification problems. Ecological Applications, 22(1):119-141

Sayre, R., J. Dangermond, C. Frye, R. Vaughan, P. Aniello, S. Breyer, D. Cribbs, D. Hopkins, R. Nauman, W. Derrenbacher, D. Wright, C. Brown, C. Convis, J. Smith, L. Benson, D. Paco VanSistine, H. Warner, J. Cress, J. Danielson, S. Hamann, T. Cecere, A. Reddy, D. Burton, A. Grosse, D. True, M. Metzger, J. Hartmann, N. Moosdorf, H. Dürr, M. Paganini, P. DeFourny, O. Arino, S. Maynard, M. Anderson, and P. Comer. (2014). A New Map of Global Ecological Land Units — An Ecophysiographic Stratification Approach. Washington, DC: Association of American Geographers. 46 pages

  • None of these bring Amazon as a single biome. Do you know anyone that do?
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 22:23
  • @Rodrigo have you looked at the various aggregrations of the data, there are many? Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 22:37
  • Are you talking about downloading something already aggregated (didn't see that), or aggregate it myself using GIS? I could aggregate all the dozens of parts that Amazon has been divided into, but I was looking for something already done, like in the image the OP linked.
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 22:54
  • Each of these ecoregion classifications has various levels (attributes) that represent an aggregation into classes such as biome, habitat, ecoregion. The USGS dataset has about five different levels. Each level has an attribute with a code and one with a name. The WWF ecoregions are similar. If you symbolize the data by the various attributes with names you will see what I mean. They are ment to be hierichical so, if you just look at the polygons you will only see the finest unit. Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 23:42
  • WWF has a column BIOME, where Amazon is the same as Atlantic Forest (which is wrong, they're different biomes). Found no other proper column. USGS has a shapefile (with only some threat categories) and a few rasters. Which one are you talking about?
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Sep 12, 2020 at 1:11

There was a new map of ecorregions, published as part of this BioScience paper from 2017. https://academic.oup.com/biosci/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/biosci/bix014

Here there is an app to visualiza it, and there is a direct download for the shapefile inside the "about" button. https://ecoregions2017.appspot.com

I would love to read @Jeffrey Evans opinion about it, his previous answer was extraordinarily helpful. In my opinion, it seems a nice updated version, although it does not seem to change much for South America, the region I have looked at in more detail.


some sources for world ecoregions:



hope some of this would be helpful

Additionally, you could to arcgis online, and try to find ecoregions data to download. it is available, you just need to find it on their site.

  • Please edit your first answer to include the second answer with it.
    – ahmadhanb
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 3:38
  • I tried, but i can't. Still need 10 reputation to insert more than 2 links in answers. I deleted the first post, since I this the better answer is second one. When I get 10 reputation, will post more links.
    – Dean7
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 3:48
  • One of those shapefiles I already linked to in my question, and the other one is of really poor quality and looks hand-drawn. I'm looking for data with moderately high detail as described in my question. Your links don't fulfil this requirement at all. I couldn't find anything of acceptable quality on ArcGIS Online, either.
    – And G
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 11:41
  • I am sorry, I couldn't be more helpful. Maybe you could search continent by continent, and then merge it maybe? I know that europe has really good data. I know it's a longshot, but you could try that way.
    – Dean7
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 19:02
  • Continent by continent would be acceptable, but I haven't found any good data outside North America. Could you link the European data you know of?
    – And G
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 16:33

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