This guide from GIS/Metadata Librarian Eric Glass highlights resources available from the Columbia University Libraries as well as from other sources. "The effort here is to identify resources that are already in an acceptable format for use in a GIS application."
The diamonds dataset offers a comprehensive list of all known diamond deposits throughout the world. Each deposit is coded with precise geographic coordinates, geological form of the diamond, and dates of discovery and first production. The dataset is available as GIS shapefiles as well as in spreadsheet (Excel) format.
EarthStat.org serves geographic data sets with the purpose of solving the grand challenge of feeding a growing global population while reducing agriculture’s impact on the environment. EarthStat is a collaboration between the Global Landscapes Initiative at The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and the Ramankutty Lab at The University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
From the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, FAOSTAT is an on-line and multilingual database currently containing over 1 million time-series records covering international statistics in the following areas: production, trade, food balance sheets, food aid shipments, fertilizer and pesticides, land use and irrigation, forest products, fishery products, population, agricultural machinery.
GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility—is an international network and research infrastructure funded by the world’s governments and aimed at providing anyone, anywhere, open access to data about all types of life on Earth. Coordinated through its Secretariat in Copenhagen, the GBIF network of participating countries and organizations, working through participant nodes, provides data-holding institutions around the world with common standards and open-source tools that enable them to share information about where and when species have been recorded. This knowledge derives from many sources, including everything from museum specimens collected in the 18th and 19th century to geotagged smartphone photos shared by amateur naturalists in recent days and weeks.
The Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) is an open platform for sharing data, launched in July 2014. A team within the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) manages HDX. OCHA is part of the United Nations Secretariat, responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies.
NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation's treasure of climate and historical weather data and information.
Protected Planet is the most up to date and complete source of information on protected areas, updated monthly with submissions from governments, non-governmental organizations, landowners and communities. It is managed by the United Nations Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) with support from IUCN and its World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA).
Download tables and join them with TIGER boundary files or other shape files. You can find lots of different data types here, both for the U.S. and other countries: demographics (U.S. decennial Census, American Community Survey, and Canadian & UK census data), environmental summaries, health/cancer data, World Bank World Development Indicators, and Eurostat data.
The Environmental Data Explorer is the authoritative source for data sets used by UNEP and its partners in the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report and other integrated environment assessments. Its online database holds more than 500 different variables, as national, subregional, regional and global statistics or as geospatial data sets (maps), covering themes like Freshwater, Population, Forests, Emissions, Climate, Disasters, Health and GDP. Display them on-the-fly as maps, graphs, data tables or download the data in different formats.
The Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Even small plots of land - whether rural or urban - growing fruit, vegetables or some food animals count if $1,000 or more of such products were raised and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year. The Census of Agriculture, taken only once every five years, looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures.
Indicators are arranged by topics such as agriculture, climate change, energy & mining, environment, etc. Once you've clicked on an indicator, look for the download button to acquire the data for all countries & years available.
WWF freely shares several of their data sets including Marine Ecoregions of the World, Freshwater Ecoregions of the World, Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World, HydroSHEDS, Global 200 (identifies a set of the Earth's terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecoregions that harbor exceptional biodiversity and are representative of its ecosystems), Global Lakes and Wetlands Database, Smart Infrastructure Planner, Tiger Conservation Landscape, and World Grassland Types.