Shapefile is one of the most common and extensively use vector file format of GIS (Geographical Information System), developed by ESRI as an open Specification, which consist of collection of files viz .shp, .shx and .dbf extension with same prefix name. You might be hunting to Download free shapefile for completing either your small industrial work for POC or for academic project use or for any NGO work.
Thousands of shapefile maps can be downloaded for free here from the following websites, including country shapefiles, shapefiles at province or state level, and other administrative boundaries maps. The shapefile (or ESRI shapefile) format is a geospatial vector format, and is one of the most commonly used map formats.
- Natural Earth – Vector: Includes coastline, land, oceans, islands, rivers, lakes, glaciated areas and bathymetry. Available at multiple levels of detail. A version of this data is also available in the Wagner VII projection, which has good equal area properties, here.
- Natural Earth – Raster: Includes various raster images, intended for use as backgrounds for other data, for example hypsometric tints, satellite derived land cover, shaded relief etc.
- Global Map: A set of consistent GIS layers covering the whole globe at 1km resolution including: transportation, elevation, drainage, vegetation, administrative boundaries, land cover, land use and population centres. Produced by the International Steering Committee on Global Mapping. (Registration Required)
- DIVA-GIS Country Data: A collection of data collected from a number of the sources below – includes administrative areas, inland water, roads and railways, elevation, land cover, population and climate. Probably the easiest place to get a simple set of data for a specific country.
- UNEP GEOdata: A wide range of data from the United Nations Environment Programme including Global Forest Cover, Global Potential Evapotranspiration, Global Average Monthly Temperatures, Dams, Watershed Boundaries and much more. To get data, choose Advanced Search and select Geospatial Data Sets from the top drop-down link
- Koordinates: GIS data aggregation site including data in a number of categories such as elevation, environment, climate etc. Some global datasets, some based on continents, some for specific countries. Mostly vector, but some raster. (Registration Required)
- MapCruzin: GIS aggregation site including wide range of data for various areas of the world. Some datasets appears to be of low quality, but others are good.
- GeoNetwork: GIS aggregation site including a wide range of data under various categories (both human and physical).
- Map Library – Country shapefile maps for Africa in the public domain.
- StatSilk – Interactive country-level shapefile maps
- European Environment Agency: Maps and datasets from the European Environment Agency, covering a huge range of physical geography and environmental topics. Europe only.
Land and Ocean Boundaries
- GSHHS: A Global Self-consistent, Hierarchical, High-resolution Shoreline Database – which basically means it’s good quality (no internal inconsistencies, good accuracy).
- GDEM: 30m resolution global elevation data derived from ASTER satellite images
- SRTM: Approx 90m (3 arc-second) resolution elevation data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission for the whole world.
- EarthEnv-DEM90: 90m-resolution near-global DEM created by merging the GDEM and SRTM products and post-processing to fill voids and smooth data.
- ETOPO1: 1 arc-minute resolution relief model including ocean bathymetry.
- Global Multi-Resolution Topography: Gridded elevation at approximately 100m resolution, covering terrestrial and sea-floor topography.
- OpenTopography: A community-based site giving free access to high-resolution topography data. Data at the moment appears to be clustered on the West Coast of the USA and in Greenland, and is available both as dense point clouds and processed DEMs.
Weather and Climate
- WorldClim: Climate data for past, present and predicted future conditions. Includes temperature (min, max, mean) and precipitation. 1km x 1km resolution.
- NCAR GIS Climate Change Scenarios: Lots of data from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research models, including data used by the IPCC in their reports. Registration required
- CRU Climate Datasets: Various datasets including temperature, precipitation, pressure, drought, paleoclimate and others, from the (infamous) Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. High and low resolution datasets available.
- Downscaled GCM Portal: A wide range of downscaled (that is, higher resolution data) created from the outputs of a wide range of GCMs. Covers the majority of important climate variables.
- European Climate Assessment and Dataset: Gridded observation data across Europe, including cloudiness, temperature, precipitation, humidity, pressure, snow and sunshine.
- Global Potential Evapotranspiration and Aridity Index: Potential Evapotranspiration data and indices of aridity at 30 arc-second resolution in raster format.
- GlobAerosol: Aerosol data in raster format (provided as NetCDF files), including estimations of AOD at 550nm and the Angstrom coefficient.
- Global Aerosol Climatology Project: Monthly averages of Aerosol Optical Thickness and the Angstrom exponent from 1981 to 2006.
- Satellite Application Facility on Climate Monitoring: Provides near real-time and retroactively-generated datasets of cloud cover, type and temperature, surface radiation budget and temperatures, amongst others.
- Climate Analysis Indicators Tool: Carbon Dioxide emissions data by country, and by US state, including measures of adaption.
- International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project: Monthly averages of a number of cloud variables including cloud cover (and associated breakdown by frequency), cloud top temperature, cloud water path, cloud optical thickness etc.
- Climatological Database for the world’s oceans (CLIWOC): Data compiled from ships logs compiled during voyages between 1750 and 1850. Includes various meteorological observations, broken down by date, ship and year.
- IRI/LDEO Climate Data Library: A wide range of over 300 datasets from various climate models and datasets.
- World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Center: Extensive set of data collected from many stations across the world, recording ozone information (from ozonesonde ascents) and ground-level ultraviolet irradiance.
- Gridded climatic data for North America, South America and Europe: A huge range of climatic data at 1km and 4km resolution, derived from various models, including temperature, precipitation, snow and derived variables such as water deficit and continentality.
- HydroSHEDS: Hydrological data and maps based on the STRM elevation data. Includes river networks, watershed boundaries, drainage directions and flow accumulations for the globe.
- Catchment Characterisation and Modelling: Data on river basins, catchments and rivers for the European Union area.
- Major Watersheds of the World Deliniation: Vector data showing the outlines of major watersheds (river basins) across the world.
- Water Isotopes: Global grids of hydrogen and oxygen isotope composition of precipitation and environmental waters in ArcGRID format. Data can be downloaded for whole globe or individual continents.
- JRC Water Portal: European water data from the EC Joint Research Centre, including data on quantity, quality, price, use, exploitation and irrigation.
- General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans: A range of gridded bathymetric datasets compiled by a group of experts.
- EarthEnv Freshwater Ecosystems Environmental Information: 1km-resolution environmental information for freshwater ecosystems, covering almost the whole globe. Information includes climate, land-cover, soil and geology.
- Randolph Glacier Inventory: A global inventory of glacier outlines, including some multi-temporal data. Major focus on quality control.
- NSIDC Frozen Ground maps: Maps of various types of frozen ground (permafrost) in the Arctic and various other areas. Data can be downloaded by clicking on the map name then selecting ‘Access Data’
- Multisensor Analyzed Sea Ice Extent (MAISE): Sea ice extent for the Northern Hemisphere from the NSIDC
- Natural Disaster Hazards: Hazard Frequency, Mortality and Economic Loss Risk as gridded data for the globe. Covers cyclones, drought, earthquakes, flood, landslide, volcano and a combination of them all (‘multihazard’).
- USGS Earthquakes Database: KML files of all earthquakes recorded by the USGS (across the whole world) from 1973 to present. Available as one dataset or grouped by magnitude or year.
- Global Seismic Hazard Map: Gridded data showing hazard risk of seismic activity across the globe.
- IBTrACS: Hurricane and tropical cyclone tracks, including attributes such as minimum pressure, maximum winds. (Also, USA tracks can be visualised here)
- NOAA/WDC Historical Tsunami Database: Location information of tsunami sources and run-up events, including many attributes (eg. maximum water height, travel time). Available in TSV format which can be imported into GIS systems.
- MODIS Fire Detection Data: Frequently updated data (including last 7 days of fires) in 1km grid format, derived from thermal anomalies from MODIS data.
- Lightning and Atmospheric Electricity Dataset: Wide range of data on lightning activity, including average flashes per grid cell per year.
- NOAA Historical Hurricane Tracks: Hurricane tracks for all North/Central American hurricanes. Data can be exported by clicking the Download button on the top right.
- Natural Disaster Hotspots: A wide range of geographic data on natural disasters (including volcanoes, earthquakes, landslide, flood and ‘multihazards’) with hazard frequency, economic loss etc.
- USGS Land Cover Institute: Great set of links to almost all land cover datasets. Links here include most of the datasets below, and many more esoteric data such as river observations, aquifers data and ocean colour information. Although the page starts with US data, it continues with data for other continents lower down the page
- Corine Land Cover Map: Europe only. Satellite derived land cover, available as at 1990, 2000 and 2006 in vector and raster formats. 100m and 250m resolutions.
- GLOBCOVER: Global land cover dataset at 300m resolution from the MERIS sensor on the ENVISAT satellite.
- Climate Change Initiative Land Cover map: Global land cover dataset at 300m resolution, for 1998-2002, 2003-2007, 2008-2012. In many ways the ‘successor’ to GLOBCOVER.
- MODIS Global Land Cover: 1km and 4km resolution global land cover maps derived from MODIS images.
- UMD GLC: 1km resolution global land cover maps from the University of Maryland created using a classification tree approach from MODIS data
- EarthEnv Global Consensus Land Cover: 1km-resolution global land cover, produced by integrating many other land cover datasets, and providing information on the consensus (or lack of consensus) between them
- Global Land Cover by National Mapping Organisations: 1km data of land cover for the globe, with a classification scheme based on the UN FAO LCCS, facilitating easy comparison with other land cover products.
- GLC-SHARE: Global Land Cover data combined from ‘best available’ national land cover maps. 1km resolution.
- Global Lakes and Wetlands Database: Global vector datasets showing areas of lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, swamps, bogs etc.
- Vegetation Map at Last Glacial Maximum: Broad-scale map of the world showing vegetation cover at the Last Glacial Maximum (25,000 – 15,000 BP)
- Grassland GIS: Grassland extent data, along with grassland usage (eg. livestock intensity per area of grassland)
- Forest GIS: Percentage tree-cover, population density and tree cover, share of wood in fuel consumption etc.
- PALSAR Forest/Non-Forest map: A very detailed (50m resolution) forest map for the whole globe, created from SAR data.
- Global Forest Change 2000-2014: Loss and gain in tree cover between 2000 and 2014, globally, at 30m resolution.
- Atlas of the Biosphere: Raster maps of environmental variables including soil pH, potential evapotranspiration, average snow depth and many more.
- Lifemapper: Species distribution maps – both recorded and predicted (based on climate, terrain and land cover). Covers a huge number of species. *Data is available by clicking on Species Archive, searching for a species and then clicking on the number of points and choosing the SHP link at the top. Alternatively, web services are available.
- WWF World Ecoregions: Shapefile of ecoregions as defined by the WWF Conservation Science Program.
- Anthropogenic Biomes: Ecosystem unit maps derived from human interactions with ecosystems creating ‘anthropogenic biomes’. Gridded data at 5 arc-seconds available.
- Amphibian Species Distribution Grids: Approximately 1km resolution gridded data showing species distribution. One file per species.
- Net Primary Productivity: Gridded Net Primary Productivity data across the globe, including a novel measure of ‘Human Appropriation of NPP’ measuring how much of the NPP of an area humans are using.
- World Soil Information: Gridded datasets covering the world’s soils at a maximum resolution of 5 arc-minutes with 22 attributes for each cell including organic carbon content, gypsum content, water capacity etc. Data is given for topsoil and subsoil. More detailed datasets for individual countries and continents are available.
- Harmonized World Soil Database: Combining regional and national soil databases and maps from many countries under the Land Use Change programme of the UN FAO. Includes soil units and parameters (such as pH, depth, and texture) and is at a resolution of 30 arc-seconds.
- ERS/MetOp Soil Moisture: 25-50km resolution soil moisture data from satellite scatterometer measurements.
- Global High Resolution Soil Water Balance: Raster data containing actual evapotranspiration and soil water deficit with a resolution of 30 arcseconds (approx 1km).
- Global Carbon Storage in Soils: Gridded carbon storage in soils for the world, from the World Resources Institute.
- ReefBase GIS: GIS data about coral reefs worldwide, including extensive attribute data.
- Human Impacts to Marine Ecosystems: Data from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis on human impacts to marine ecosystems. Includes fishing impacts, ocean acidification, sea surface temperature, pollutants and more.
- Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center: All data products from this center are available for download, including atmospheric CO2 concentrations (including the famous Mauna Loa dataset), precipitation data, long-term modelling data and more.
- UNEP WCMC: Variety of datasets from the United Nations Environment Programme including global wetlands, global distribution of coral reefs, mangrove distributions and more.
- Aquamaps: Standardised distribution maps for over 11,000 species of fish, marine mammals and invertebrates. *Data available for download under High Resolution Maps and Environmental Data links.
- Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: Vector data showing a biogeographic classification of terrestrial ecological regions across the world.
- Freshwater Ecoregions of the World: Vector data showing a biogeographic classification of freshwater ecological regions across the world.
- Marine Ecoregions of the World: Vector data showing a biogeographic classification of marine ecological regions across the world.
- BioFRESH: Contemporary distributions of freshwater species, mapped in vector format across the world
- Global Habitat Heterogeneity: A set of 14 metrics on the spatial heterogeneity of global habitat, at 1km, 5km and 25km resolutions, derived from MODIS EVI data.
Mineral Resources/Oil and Gas
- OneGeology Portal: Combined geological maps from many geological organisations across the world. Levels of detail vary across the world, but basic data is available for many areas, with more detail for certain countries.
- Mineral Resources Data System: Vector data of mineral resources across the world including names, locations, descriptions, geological characteristics etc.
- Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide deposits: Information on VMS deposits from across the world with attribute data.
- North Sea Oil Offshore Maps and GIS – English sector: Maps from the UK government showing licensing information, locations of wells and country-ownership boundaries.
- North Sea Oil Offshore Maps and GIS – Dutch sector: Same as above but for the Dutch-controlled area of the North Sea. To download data click the links under ‘Download’ on the right-hand side
- North Sea Oil Offshore Maps and GIS – Netherland sector: Same as above but for Netherland-controlled area of the North Sea.
- UNEP GEOdata: A wide range of data from the United Nations Environment Programme including Nighttime Lights, Pollutant Emissions, Commercial Shipping Activity, Protected Areas and Administrative Boundaries. To get data, choose Advanced Search and select Geospatial Data Sets from the top drop-down link
- World Bank Geodata: A wide range of World Bank datasets converted to KML format, includes GNP, schooling and financial data.
- Humanitarian Response Common and Fundamental Operational Datasets Registry: List of freely available datasets for many countries run by the UN Humanitarian Response programme. Contains administrative boundaries, transport, population and more. Fairly empty at the moment but due to be updated soon
- Atlas of the Biosphere: Gridded human data including per capita oil usage, literacy rate, population growth rate, built-up land and many more.
- Koordinates: GIS data aggregation site including data in a number of categories such as administrative boundaries, transportation etc. Some global datasets, some based on continents, some for specific countries. Mostly vector, but some raster. Registration required
- GISTPortal: Wide range of GIS data from a project funded by UNAID to provide spatial data for humanitarian purposes. Registration Required
- ESPON Grid Data: Various human geography indicators in gridded raster form across Europe, including GDP, population and unemployment in 2003 and 2006.
- MapCruzin: GIS aggregation site including wide range of data for various areas of the world. Some data appears to be of low quality, but others are good.
- GeoNetwork: GIS aggregation site including a wide range of data under various categories (both human and physical).
- Google Maps Gallery: A wide range of user-submitted geographic data, available as a KML file
- History Database of the Global Environment: Gridded time-series of population, land-use for the last 12,000 years. Also includes GDP, agriculatural areas, yields and greenhous gas emissions for the last century.
- Natural Earth: Includes countries, disputed areas, first-order admin (departments, states etc), populated places, urban polygons, parks and protected areas and water boundaries. Available at multiple levels of detail.
- GADM: Global administrative boundaries, with extensive attribute sets. Covers countries and up to four levels of internal administrative boundary (states, departments, counties etc).
- World Borders: World country borders with attributes including country codes (FIPS, ISO etc), area and populations.
- Europe in the World: Administrative boundaries for Europe with lots of attribute data for each country/region including information on economy, demography and infrastructure.
- CShapes – Historical Boundaries: Historical state boundaries and capitals post-WW2, world-wide, including all changes and dates of changes.
- VLIZ Maritime Boundaries: Maritime boundaries and areas of Exclusive Economic Zones, including detailed attribute data on treaties etc. From the Flanders Marine Institute.
- TZ timezones: A map of timezone areas in the world as used in the Unix TZ database format, from which we get the naming Europe/London, America/New_York etc. In shapefile format.
- World Spatial Database of Protected Areas: Global vector database of marine and terrestrial protected areas. Rather complicated to download from – instructions at bottom of linked page.
- IUCN 2013 Red List: Set of shapefiles produced by the IUCN showing the distribution of endangered species of plants and animals across the world
- Protected Planet: Map of protected areas across the whole world, of almost all types. Available for download by clicking the ‘Download All’ link on the homepage, and then scrolling to the bottom and choosing KMZ, SHP or CSV.
- Global Land Use Dataset: Gridded data at 0.5 degree resolution showing population density, potential natural vegetation, cropland extent, grazing land extent, built-up land extent, crop extent (for 18 major crops) and land suitability for cultivation
- Human Influence and Footprint: Human Influence Index and Human Footprint calculated from various factors which exert human influence on ecosystems, for example population distribution, urban areas, navigable rivers etc. Available at 30 arc-second resolution.
- Global Agricultural Lands: Extent and intensity of use of agricultural lands (both cropland and pasture) in 2000 from MODIS and SPOT images and agricultural inventory data.
- Global Irrigated Area and Rainfed Crops Areas: Vector mapping of global irrigated cropland and rainfed cropland.
- Crop Calendar GIS: Gridded data on planting dates and harvesting dates across the world for 19 crops. Available at 5 minute and 0.5 degree resolutions.
- EarthStat: Agricultural Land Use and potential use: A number of GIS datasets on agricultural land use, including global cropland and pasture from 1700 to 2007, harvested areas and yields for 175 crops, and global fertiliser application rates.
- ESPON Urban Morphological Data: Data on urban areas for Europe including many attributes.
- European Urban Morphological Zones: Data derived from the CORINE landcover dataset showing all sets of urban areas lying less than 200m apart.
Lakes, Oceans and other Water Sources
- Coastal Water Quality: Quality of coastal waters across the globe measured by chlorophyll concentrations from SeaWIFS satellite. Data for 1998 and 2007.
- Global Reservoir and Dam Database: Geographically-referenced data on all reservoirs with a storage capacity of more than 0.1 cubic kilometres. The data consists of polygons outlining reservoirs at high spatial resolution with extensive metadata about the dam and reservoir. Registration required
Wars, Conflict and Crime
- ACLED: Armed Conflict Location and Event Data – containing all reported conflict events in 50 countries in the developing world. Data from 1997 to present, and in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2006 until present.
- Uppsala Conflict Data Programme – Georeferenced Event Database: Locations of instances of political violence in Africa and Asia.
- Global Terrorism Database: A database of terrorist events (both domestic and international) across the world from 1970-2008, including location and attribute information.
- Peace Research Institute Oslo: A range of data including armed conflict locations, replication data, arms trade flows and resource datasets.
- Gridded Population of the World: Includes raw population, population density, both historic, current and predicted.
- Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project: Based on the above, but includes information on rural and urban population balances.
- WorldPop: High-resolution, contemporary data on population across Africa, Asia and Central/Southern America. Combines the AfriPop, AmeriPop and AsiaPop projects.
- Large Urban Areas 1950-2050: Historic, current and future estimates of populations in large urban areas of the world.
- Global Urban Extent: Maps showing urban extent across the world, at 500m resolution, derived from MODIS images. Requires email to author to download
- GeoHive: Population and country statistics. Not provided in GIS data formats, but can easily be converted from CSV
Buildings, Roads and Points of Interest
- OpenStreetMap: Crowd-sourced data for the whole world consisting of most things you’d find on a standard local paper map: points of interest, buildings, roads and road names, ferry routes etc.
- OSM Metro Extracts: City-sized extracts of the OpenStreetMap dataset, updated weekly for cities across the world
- POI Factory: Point of Interest files originally designed for use in GPS units, but they can be loaded into a GIS fairly easily. Widely varying quality, and coverage, but includes such things as shop and business locations (eg. all Tesco stores, all McDonald’s restaurants) as well as places of worship, speed cameras etc. Registration is required. To download data in a GIS-ready form choose Garmin CSV format on the download page. The CSV file will contain Latitude and Longitude in WGS-84 co-ordinates, as well as descriptions.
- SimpleGeo’s Places: Point of Interest data from SimpleGeo, provided as a 2Gb Zip file and licensed under the Creative Commons license. Contains over 21 million POIs for over 63 countries.
- Nuclear Power Station locations: Locations of all nuclear power stations worldwide (according to the IAEA), provided as a Google Fusion Table. Export to CSV for easy import to a GIS system
Transport and Communications
- Open Flights: Airport, airline and route data across the globe. Data is provided as CSV files which can be easily processed to produce GIS outputs. Data includes all known airports, and a large number of routes betwen airports.
- World Port Index: Dataset from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency listing approximately 3700 ports across the world, with location and facilities offered.
- Global Roads Open Access Data Set: A vector dataset of roads across the world, using a globally consistent data model, and suitable for mapping at the 1:250,000 level. Only roads between settlements are included, not residential streets, and the dataset is accurate to approximately 50m. This dataset is in beta-testing at the moment and will be fully available shortly
- Undersea Telecommunications Cables: Open source undersea telecommunication cables map, updated frequently. Data can be visualised in the embedded viewer or shapefiles can be downloaded by clicking the Raw Data link on the top right.
- Capitaine European Train Stations: Metadata for all train stations in Europe including latitude and longitude.
Gazetteers (place/feature names)
- NGIS Country Files: A list of names of regions, areas and populated places for each country in the world, provided by the US Government, with geo-references for each place.
- Geonames Country Information: List of all countries in the world with ISO and ISO3 country code (eg. GB for the United Kingdom and FR for France) with capital city, area, population, internet top-level domain, currency, official languages and neighbours.
- GRUMP Settlement Points: Locations of individual settlements (as a time series, showing new settlements appearing over time), derived from the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project.
- G-Econ: Geographically-based economic data, basically providing measurements like GDP but on a raster cell basis (known as Gross Cell Product).
- Internet Map: Data which can be used to produce maps like those shown here showing major linkages in the internet, as well as density of people online.