Data Management

User Community content is helping build the Living Atlas of the World

Hundreds of organizations in Esri’s user community are helping build the Living Atlas of the World by contributing their authoritative content. The Living Atlas of the World is composed of a variety of collections, all of which are supported by the ArcGIS Content Team. This content is built into the ArcGIS Platform as part of the user experience and is ready for your immediate use! To view this comprehensive set of maps, apps, and tools just visit the Living Atlas of the World Web App.

Live maps, intelligent layers, and maps for analysis are all part of the Living Atlas of the World. Many of these contributions are being used in Esri’s Online Basemaps, like the popular flagship World Topographic Map.

Did you know?

…that there are several other “content communities” in the Living Atlas of the World that can be contributed to?

When an organization shares data with the Living Atlas of the World, the question that must first be addressed is “What map layers does my organization manage that would help support the various content communities of the atlas”? The answer will vary from organization to organization, but it’s important to be aware of the collections that our user community can support.

The list above serves as a guideline and can help organizations identify the areas where .they can contribute. Many of the organizations and agencies that contribute reference features to the basemaps more than likely have data that can be leveraged by other communities. The term “Community Maps” covers more than just basemap reference layers. All of the varying communities should be considered for contribution.

To better understand these communities, how they are defined, and if your organization’s content is an appropriate fit, have a look at the descriptions below.


Detailed imagery of the world, which reveals both the present state of the planet and change over time. These image layers enable you to view recent, high-resolution imagery for most of the world; lower-resolution imagery of the planet updated daily; and near real-time imagery for parts of the world affected by major events, such as natural disasters. This includes intelligent layers that enable you to restyle the imagery to highlight specific characteristics, such as healthy vegetation.


Includes a suite of basemaps that provide reference maps for our world and context for your work. These maps are built from the best available data from a community of authoritative providers and presented in multiple cartographic styles. The maps are designed to emphasize different views of our world, from physical to political. You can choose the basemap that is most appropriate for your map or app.

Demographics and Lifestyle

Includes a comprehensive set of demographic and lifestyle maps of the United States and more than 120 other countries. This includes recent demographic and Tapestry Segmentation lifestyle information such as total population, family size, household income, and more. It also includes consumer spending information on many types of products. This information can be accessed as ready-to-use map layers, including preconfigured pop-up windows, which can be restyled and added to your maps and apps.

Boundaries and Places

Includes a set of map layers that describe boundaries at many levels of geography, including countries, administrative areas, postal codes, and more. You can use these boundaries and place layers for simple geographic context or to aggregate your own data to visualize on a map.


The collection of landscape maps and layers available through ArcGIS covers a wide set of topics related to our natural and man-made environments, including agriculture, wildlife, elevation, hydrology, and weather. Landscape analysis underpins much of our land-use planning and how we manage our natural resources and relationship with the environment. As part of this collection, Esri has assembled best available data from many public sources and provided the content in an easy-to-use collection of layers, which can be used to make better informed decisions.

Community Maps

You can contribute to several maps through our Community Maps Program  in an effort to make them more useful not just for your organization, but others. Thousands of ArcGIS users have improved the coverage and quality of our maps by providing access to their geographic data and imagery. Join the growing list of organizations that contribute their content to a living global atlas of online maps and spatial information.


Includes a number of maps and layers that describe the systems that people use to move between places. This includes a variety of global, national, and local maps on various topics from infrastructure projects to rest areas. Some of these layers are dynamic, such as the live World Traffic map, which is updated every few minutes with data on traffic incidents and congestion.

Urban Systems

Over half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and the percentage is growing. This urbanization has a profound impact on our lives, and it presents unique challenges for managing urban systems. This collection of maps and layers provides useful information, such as open space, highway access and noise pollution, to help cities implement innovative solutions for the complex problems they face. This includes standard layers that can be used to compare different cities as well as detailed urban landscapes that can be utilized for visualization and analysis.

Earth Observations

Includes a rich collection of earth observation maps and layers that describe our planet’s current conditions, from earthquakes and fires to severe weather and hurricanes, as well as changes over time. This includes a set of live feed layers featuring frequently updated data from several sources, as well as scientific information, such as soil moisture and snowpack, over several years.

Historical Maps

Includes a rich set of historical maps that illustrate the world as it existed decades and even centuries ago. These maps describe the political, cultural, and physical aspects of our world, providing a revealing glimpse into the past and a better understanding of how our planet has evolved over time. This collection includes scanned raster maps presented as both static map layers and dynamic image layers, which can be viewed individually as a basemap or displayed with a current basemap for comparison purposes.

The next time your organization submits updates to Community Maps, consider how you might leverage additional content by contributing to other communities discussed above. If your organization is not participating in the Living Atlas consider sharing your authoritative content with the global GIS Community. We will host your content for free through our secure cloud services.

For additional information on Community Maps visit the Community Maps Program Website and the Community Maps Resource Center. If you have general questions you can visit our growing FAQ page for most answers.

You can register your organization with Community Maps through the Community Maps Contributor App. It’s easy and only takes a few minutes.

Email us at and we’ll help you get started.

About the author

Shane is a Senior Product Engineer for Esri's ArcGIS Content Team. He curates and recruits content for the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World through Esri's Community Maps Program, and explores and implements new and innovative delivery methods of providing geospatial information.

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