Semantic Network Service (SNS)

The Semantic Network Service (SNS) of the Federal Environment Agency provides support for all questions concerning environmental terms including the common place names.

The Shared Terminology of Environmental Information

SNS contains a bi-lingual (German/English) semantic network which consists of three components:

  • the Environmental Thesaurus UMTHES® with more than 50,000 inter-networked terms. (Descriptors and Non-Descriptors).
  • the Geo-Thesaurus-Environment (GTU) with more than 25,000 geographic names and the spatial intersections of all these places.
  • an Environmental Chronology containing more than 600 contemporary and historical events that affected the environment.

The Federal Environment Agency provides this service to encourage the practice of a common domain language in the German Environmental Informatics, and to make this terminology accessible by the public.

Maintenance of the Vocabulary

The Environmental Chronology is an inherent component of SNS and maintained by the SNS team. In case of questions or suggestions please refer to the contact point given below. An overview of all the recorded events may also be found in the "Environmental Almanac" of PortalU.

The Environmental Thesaurus UMTHES® is maintained by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and updated in SNS on a regular basis.

The Geo-Thesaurus has been composed by the Federal Environment Agency from various sources up to 2007. Today it is mainly based on an adaptation of "Geographical Names of Germany", which is originally provided by the Central Basic Geodata Service for Germany in a Web Feature Service ("WFS GN-DE").SNS gets updated from this source once a year after clearance with the Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy (BKG). This gets complimented by different types of protected areas (UBA) and catchment basins (Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, BfN ).

Interactive Access

The menu items "Search Topic/Event" or "Index" provide direct access to the vocabulary in a comfortable graphical user-interface.

A short user guide (PDF, German only)

Using SNS Web Services

Environmental applications are invited to integrate SNS facilities via Web Services. Providing these services is the main concern of SNS.

Clients of SNS Web Services are currently:

  • The German Environmental Information Portal (PortalU) makes use of all Service operations in a versatile manner;
  • The Environmental Ministry of Rhineland-Palatinate supports meta data creation by autoClassify in its internal Web Content Management;
  • The Bavarian Environment Object catalogue (UOK) integrates UMTHES® by SNS with further professional thesauri;
  • Die Environmental Portals of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia have tested and are planning to integrate several Services in 2008

The Geo-Thesaurus supports spatial context by place names in the extended search von:
- Geodata Catalogue of GeoPortal.Bund;
- Metadata Information System of the Working Committee of the Surveying Authorities of the States of the Federal Republic of Germany (AdV)
- Geoportal of Thuringia (GeoMIS.Thüringen)

More on SNS-Web Services ...

The SNS Research Project (2001-2003)

Final Report of the research project "Implementation of a Semantic Network Service (SNS) in the context of the German Environmental Information Network (gein®)", UFOPLAN Ref. No. 20111612, promoted by BMU/UBA, Germany.

Kurzfassung des Abschlussberichts (28.05.2003, PDF, DE)

Summary of the final report (28.05.2003, PDF, EN)

Abschlussbericht, Band 1 (28.05.2003, PDF, DE)

Abschlussbericht, Band 2 Feinspezifikation (21.08.2002, PDF, DE)

Präsentation der Ergebnisse auf dem Technologie-Workshop der Koordinierungsstelle UDK-GEIN (PortalU) am 21.4.2004: Semantic Network Services


Joachim Fock, Umweltbundesamt, Postfach 1406, D-06813 Dessau-Roßlau.

Contact via E-mail