About the Atlas of NSW Wildlife

The Atlas of NSW Wildlife (the Atlas) is the Office of Environment and Heritage’s (OEH’s) database of flora and fauna records. The Atlas contains records of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, some fungi, some invertebrates (such as insects and snails listed under the Threatened Species Conservation Act) and some fish.

The Atlas also contains known and predicted distributions of vegetation communities, and of endangered populations and key threatening processes listed under the Threatened Species Conservation Act.

The Atlas has existed in various formats since 1980. As of August 2012, the Atlas contained over 6.4 million records authorised for distribution by OEH, plus a further 3.7 million records supplied by other custodians for internal OEH use only. It is managed by staff in OEH's BioNet-Atlas Team.

The Atlas database comprises a number of ‘modules’ including:

  • Atlas sightings
  • fauna survey
  • the VIS flora survey.

The flora and fauna survey modules contain detailed systematic flora or fauna survey information for sites where scientific surveys have been undertaken. The VIS flora survey module forms part of OEH’s Vegetation Information System (VIS). The other components of the VIS are physically separate from the Atlas, and include VIS Map Catalogue and VIS Classification.

Note that an Atlas search will return records from both the sightings and survey modules. 

Where does the information in the Atlas come from?

The flora and fauna records in the Atlas come from various sources including:

  • survey data held in the Atlas’s in-built systematic survey modules (fauna survey and VIS Flora survey)
  • OEH, including data from the Royal Botanic Gardens herbarium database, and from National Parks and Wildlife staff
  • data submitted by ecological consultants, research scientists, and others (as part of the scientific licence procedure)
  • data provided by other agencies, such as Forests NSW, the Australian Museum and the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme
  • historical reports
  • the general public.

What type of information is contained in the Atlas? 

Data in the Atlas, whilst extensive, is nevertheless ‘patchy’. The Atlas covers all areas of NSW and also includes some records from neighbouring states, but will not provide information on the full distribution of a species. The Atlas is not a comprehensive inventory of all species, nor of all locations of species in NSW. Except in areas where detailed survey information has been incorporated into the database, the search results for a particular area are based on a mix of reported sightings. For example, sightings often follow patterns of human movement, such as along roads.

It is also important to realise that the number of recorded sightings for a species does not necessarily correspond in any way to the actual abundance of that species in NSW. Contributors often focus their efforts on recording threatened and endangered species, with the result that rare species may have more recorded sightings in the Atlas than common species. A common species in an area may not be recorded in the Atlas, because no-one has thought to report its occurrence.

How can I access the data in the Atlas?

Most of the data held in the Atlas is publicly available via OEH’s BioNet-Atlas website.

Atlas data is made available in accordance with OEH’s Sensitive Species Data Policy. Some threatened species that are particularly sensitive to risks such as collection or disturbance, are categorised by OEH as ‘sensitive’. More detailed locational information about sensitive species is available beyond the public site, and may be accessed by OEH staff and by clients holding an Atlas Data Licence.

Apply for a licence (conditions apply).

OEH staff also have access to datasets supplied to OEH for internal agency use only. OEH staff requiring access to Atlas data should contact the BioNet-Atlas Team to organise a staff login to the database.

What do I get if I do a search on the Atlas website?

The Atlas 'Search' tab allows you to:

  • obtain recorded sightings for a precise geographic area such as a national park, a local government area or an area drawn by you using an interactive map
  • display and save a list of species recorded in your chosen area
  • display and print the recorded sightings for each species on a map
  • query individual mapped records, using the ‘identify’ tool in the map viewer 
  • download the record set (downloads capped at 200,000 records) as a tab-delimited text file, to use in your GIS
  • obtain more information on any threatened species found in your search, via links to OEH’s Threatened Species website.

The VIS Flora survey menu allows you to interrogate the detailed plot data held in the VIS Flora survey module of the Atlas database.

Who uses the information in the Atlas?

The records in the Atlas are used by a wide variety of people, including:

  • people who wish to know more about species occurring in their local area
  • academics and researchers working in particular areas or on particular species
  • students carrying out school projects
  • consultants undertaking environmental impact assessments
  • land holders undertaking development clearing or private native forestry applications
  • state and Commonwealth government departments for conservation planning and land management
  • local government agencies for local planning purposes
  • catchment management authorities for catchment management activities.

How can I contribute to the Atlas?

If you want to submit records electronically, you can fill in the Atlas spreadsheet. To upload your spreadsheet, you can register for a login to the Atlas. Anyone can register, and it is expected that scientific licence holders will obtain a login so that they may upload spreadsheets to fulfil their scientific licence requirements.

Apply to register.

If you have any questions about contributing, or any queries about how to complete the spreadsheet, contact the BioNet-Atlas Team.

Clients interested in contributing systematic survey data to the VIS flora survey module or the fauna survey module, should contact the BioNet-Atlas Team.

Staff interested in entering data into the Atlas should contact the BioNet-Atlas Team to organise a staff login to the Atlas.


OEH is the custodian of the Atlas database and is responsible for its maintenance, update and the distribution of data. The data and copyright and other intellectual property rights in the data are and shall remain the property of the copyright holder. Copyright in extracts and printouts, or online search results from the Atlas database, are held by OEH and protected by the copyright laws of Australia.

You can use material obtained from the website, as long as you do so in accordance with the terms and conditions of use:

  • you are licensed to use, reproduce, distribute, publish or otherwise make available the data, or to use or adapt the data to create derivative works
  • in any reproduction, distribution or publication of the data, or in any use or adaptation of the data to create derivative works, you must include a citation which attributes the source of the data and the date the data was accessed, as follows: 'NSW Office of Environment and Heritage's Atlas of NSW Wildlife, which holds data from a number of custodians. Data obtained through the BioNet Atlas of NSW Wildlife website dd/mm/yyyy'
  • you acknowledge that the data may contain errors and omissions and that you employ the data at your own risk
  • neither the Office of Environment and Heritage nor any other data custodian will accept liability for any loss, damage, cost or expenses that you may incur as a result of the use of or reliance upon the data
  • data in the Atlas of NSW Wildlife is constantly updated and you should use the current data from the BioNet Atlas of NSW Wildlife website and not rely on material you have previously printed or downloaded.


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Page last updated: 25 March 2015