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Land Cover Map

Land Cover Maps have been created as part of Countryside Survey in 1990 and 2000, and will be produced again as part of the 2007 Survey.

Land Cover Map 2007 will be made available in 2010.

Land cover map 2000

The Land Cover Maps are digital datasets constructed mainly from images provided by satellites orbiting the Earth. The satellite images record values corresponding to different ground surfaces and vegetation types. The Countryside Survey team then analyse or classify these values to match them up with land cover and habitat types (e.g. crops, woodland, urban areas etc) occurring in the UK.

The classification process is carried out by ‘training’ a computer to recognize certain values in the satellite data and assign them to a Land Cover type, equivalent to one of the UK’s Broad Habitats*.

Special features of Land Cover Map 2007 include:

  • Integration of digital cartography as part of the spatial framework – including Ordnance Survey MasterMap and agricultural land parcel datasets.
  • High-tech ground reconnaissance and quality control – including use of both hand-held and vehicle-mounted GPS devices to record land cover types against an accurate satellite image.

More detail:

The Land Cover Map is based on a combination of Earth Observation data, digital cartography and other ancillary information (such as soils or elevation).

Land Cover Map 2007 will combine the satellite images with Ordnance Survey (OS) MasterMap data. This will give a product that is more easily recognisable because the OS lines (roads, field boundaries etc) will be visible. Land Cover Map 2007 will show the stock and distribution of land cover and Broad Habitats across the UK (at a ‘field by field’ resolution, approx 0.5 hectare).

The new approach will match the real-life landscape structure more closely and provide easier integration with other datasets.

Technical Description Land Cover Map 2007:

  • is a spatial database (GIS) of land cover and broad habitats at a 'field-by-field' scale for the whole of the UK
  • will be produced by a combination of data from satellites, digital cartography, ground reference data and other datasets
  • will provide information at a range of scales (from local sites to the whole UK) and will contribute to European land cover mapping

Previous Maps

The 1990 Land Cover Map of Great Britain was a relatively simple map. It identified and showed the distribution of habitat types as 25 x 25m square areas or ‘pixels’.

Land Cover Map 2000 used essentially the same type of satellite images as in 1990, but also incorporated information from other datasets. In 2000 a new approach used ‘segments’ of land that were identified in the satellite images as having the same value and so belonging to the same habitat type. These segments or parcels represented real world features such as fields, lakes and woods.

Northern Ireland was included for the first time in 2000, allowing the production of an all-UK Land Cover Map.

Research Examples

The Land Cover Maps 1990 and 2000 have been used in many research applications. Here are two examples:

  • the distribution of habitat types (as identified by the Map) has been linked to the known distribution of different bird species – this will help us to more fully understand bird ecology.
  • the information from the Land Cover Maps is also used to calculate the carbon accounts for the UK and to assess the impacts of atmospheric pollution.

Access to Land Cover Map data for 1990 and 2000 – please follow this link.

*For more information on habitat types visit: