Prior to the ALA a major barrier to Australia's biodiversity research and management efforts was the fragmentation and inaccessibility of biodiversity related data. Data and information on Australian species was, and still is, generated and housed in museums, herbaria, collections, universities, research organisations, and government departments and agencies. It was very difficult to obtain an integrated suite of records and data sets from these groups and information was often incomplete. To overcome these issues, Australia’s biodiversity information needed to be brought together and made easily available in the one place.
Founded on the principle of data sharing – collect it once, share it, use it many times – the ALA now provides free, online access to more than 67 million occurrence records, based on specimens from natural history collections, field observations and surveys. The ALA features a wide range of powerful, open source mapping and analysis tools, which allow users to explore and analyse information in new ways. This vast repository of information makes the ALA the most comprehensive and accessible data set on Australia’s biodiversity ever produced.
In collaboration with the GBIF, the ALA’s open infrastructure has been used by numerous countries for their national biodiversity portals. Leveraging open infrastructure without having to duplicate or re-create effort represents enormous value to Australia as well as the global biodiversity community.