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News Release

NEW EMBARGO! New UK land cover map launched this week

05 July 2011 Centre for Ecology and Hydrology


The UK’s new Land Cover Map is published today (Wednesday 6 July), providing a continuous coverage of habitat distributions across the countryside at a 25m resolution. The map was developed using a combination of satellite images and national scale digital mapping data.

The new map is the third in a series produced by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology on behalf of the long running Countryside Survey partnership. Previous Land Cover Maps were produced in 1990 and 2000.

Land cover was derived from over 70 satellite images collected between 2005 and 2008. The satellite images contain spectral information which corresponds to different ground surfaces and vegetation types in both summer and winter. An automated classification process was used to assign a land cover type based on existing Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Broad Habitats to approximately 10 million land parcels.  The UK BAP Broad Habitats are widely used in monitoring and reporting on our countryside.

Land parcels - identifying real world objects such as fields, lakes and settlements - were derived from existing national cartography products, such as the Ordnance Survey’s MasterMap Topography Layer in combination with several other sources of spatial data. This use of digital cartography makes it easy to integrate the new map with other datasets opening the door for many new potential applications, as well as improving the ability to monitor future changes in UK land cover.

The new map shows the UK land cover as being comprised of mainly ‘Arable and Horticulture’ and ‘Improved Grassland’ habitats (25% each), with the other main land covers being ‘Semi-natural Grassland’ (13%) and ‘Mountain, Heath and Bog’ (16%). ‘Urban areas’, ‘Coniferous Woodland’ and ‘Broadleaved Woodland’ each make up 6% of the UK. ‘Coastal’ and ‘Freshwater’ habitats contribute to the remaining land surface area.

Dr Dan Morton from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology led the Land Cover Map project. He said, “At a time when our land surface is under increasing pressure, reliable information on land cover is essential. The demands that we place on our land are often conflicting and need to be balanced to maintain and enhance our quality of life. To address these issues and plan for the future we need to know what we have on our land surface and where it is. The new map provides this information and will find many new applications.”

Land Cover Map is available in a range of data formats and spatial resolutions to suit different user requirements. The most detailed data is supplied as a vector product with a Minimum Mappable Unit of 0.5ha. Each polygon represents a parcel of land and has attributes describing land cover and metadata detailing how this information was derived. Five raster products simplify the information with a 25x25m product giving the most likely Broad Habitat for each polygon. In addition four freely available products summarise the 25x25m raster at the 1x1km level.

Land Cover Map data can be obtained from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) under licence for academic, non-commercial and commercial use. Some products, including the 1km data, are available, free of charge for non-commercial use, via the CEH Information Gateway (CIG).

Attached files

  • The new UK Land Cover Map

  • Land Cover Map laid over a Digital Terrain Model - Lake District

  • Example of digital map overlay on satellite image daya

  • Land Cover Map detail - North Wales

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