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Used to describe the land cover and land use of an area, the surface of roads and ways and single, natural objects.


This page describes how to specify the land cover and land use of an area, the surface of roads and ways and single, natural objects like peaks and springs. Please note that not all keys used here are approved.

When to use landcover, landuse, surface and natural


From wikipedia: Land use is the human use of land. Land use involves the management and modification of natural environment or wilderness into built environment such as fields, pastures, and settlements. It has also been defined as "the arrangements, activities and inputs people undertake in a certain land cover type to produce, change or maintain it" (FAO, 1997a; FAO/UNEP, 1999)

So the key landuse=* should be used to describe for what a specific area is used by humans.


From wikipedia: Land cover is the physical material at the surface of the earth. Land covers include grass, asphalt, trees, bare ground, water, etc. There are two primary methods for capturing information on land cover: field survey and analysis of remotely sensed imagery.

So the key landcover=* should be used to describe the surface of a specific area.


Reread the the description of landcover: "should be used to describe the surface". So why not put everything into surface?

Taken from the description of surface=*: To provide additional information about the physical surface of roads/footpaths and some other features. Primarily concerned about the surface in relation to transport and sports and more commonly used on linear features.

Taken from Landcover: The surface=grass tag could be used but this tag was originally created to describe the surface of linear features within a routable network and as such had values which are relevant to this purpose rather than broader landcover descriptions.

In my understanding this translates to: use surface=* to describe the surface of any man-made, primarily linear objects, e.g. roads. Do not use this key alone as it specifies a property (the surface) of another feature.


Taken from the description of natural=*: Used to describe a selection of Geological and Landcover features. Great...

If we take a look at the possible values, we see things like cave_entrance, peak, spring, stone (a single stone), tree (a single tree), volcano, but also scrub, water, wetland, wood, etc. There is no clear idea visible, for what this key should be used.

In my understanding this should be used for natural one-dimensional features. This of course would deprecate about half of the values.

Complete list of tags for land uses, land cover and natural objects


Here you will find a list of areas, land uses and natural objects in alphabetical order and a description how to tag them. For a list of possible surface values, see surface=*. In case you need to assign more than one value to landuse=* use a ; (semicolon) as usually. For JOSM there exists the style Landcover which makes most listed tags visible while editing.

Note: Descriptions are usually taken from wikipedia.

Property Tag Element Description Deprecates Rendering Photo
Allotments landuse=allotments Area An allotment garden, often called simply an allotment, is a plot of land made available for individual, non-professional gardening. Such plots are formed by subdividing a piece of land into a few or up to several hundreds of land parcels that are assigned to individuals or families. In allotment gardens, the parcels are cultivated individually, contrary to other community garden types where the entire area is tended collectively by a group of people. (unchanged)

Not to be used for a node.

Bay landcover=water


Area A bay is an area of water mostly surrounded by land. Bays generally have calmer waters than the surrounding sea, due to the surrounding land blocking some waves and often reducing winds. Bays also exist as an inlet in a lake or pond. A large bay may be called a gulf, a sea, a sound, or a bight. natural=bay
Beach landcover=beach


Area A beach is a landform along the shoreline of an ocean, sea, lake or river. It usually consists of loose particles which are often composed of rock, such as sand, gravel, shingle, pebbles or cobblestones.

For beach resorts see additionally leisure=beach_resort.

natural=beach Rendering-area-natural-beach.png Beach.jpg
Brownfield landuse=brownfield Area Brownfield sites are abandoned or underused industrial and commercial facilities available for re-use. Expansion or redevelopment of such a facility may be complicated by real or perceived environmental contaminations. (unchanged) Former Brickworks ... - - 56268.jpg
Cave entrance natural=cave_entrance Node The entrance to a cave. (unchanged) Cave-entrance-mapnik.png Cave entrance.jpg
Cemetery landuse=cemetery Area A cemetery is a spatially defined area where the remains of deceased people are buried or are otherwise interred. (unchanged) Jewish cemetery Worms.jpg
Clarifier landuse=reservoir
Area A clarifier stores water for treatment within a wastewater treatment plant. (nothing)
Cliff natural=cliff Node Way A cliff is a significant vertical, or near vertical, rock exposure. For a linear way, the top of the cliff should be to the left of the cliff, and the bottom on the right side (unchanged)

Not to be used for an area.

Cliff2.png Cliff.jpg
Coastline natural=coastline Way A coastline or seashore is the area where land meets the sea or ocean. A precise line that can be called a coastline cannot be determined due to the dynamic nature of tides. The term "coastal zone" can be used instead, which is a spatial zone where interaction of the sea and land processes occurs.

The coastline should run clockwise around water and anti-clockwise around land, i.e. land on the left side and water on the right side of the way (that is, according to the sequence of nodes in the way), for it to show correctly. As the sole exception coastlines do not have to form closed ways, they merely have to connect up (head to tail) to form complete closed polygons.

(unchanged) Rendering-area-natural-coastline.png Coastline.jpg
Commercial area landuse=commercial Area A commercial area is any part of a city or town in which the primary land use is commercial activities (shops, offices, theaters, restaurants and so on), as opposed to a residential neighbourhood, an industrial zone, or other types of neighbourhoods. (unchanged) Cambourne Business Park - - 15908.jpg
Construction site landuse=construction


Area An area of land being built on. (unchanged) Construction Site.JPG
Detention basin landuse=basin


Area A detention basin is a storm water management facility installed on, or adjacent to, tributaries of rivers, streams, lakes or bays that is designed to protect against flooding and, in some cases, downstream erosion by storing water for a limited period of a time. These basins are also called "dry ponds", "holding ponds" or "dry detention basins" if no permanent pool of water exists. (unchanged)
Developed area landcover=developed_area Area An developed area is characterized by high population density and vast human features, e.g. a city. This is usually implied by many values of landuse, like e.g. landuse=residential or landuse=industrial. (nothing) PanoSAP6.JPG
Farm land landuse=farmland
Area Agricultural land (also farm land or field; used for tillage and pasture) denotes the land suitable for agricultural production, both crops and livestock. To specify what crop is produced use the key crop, for livestock the key produce.

Do not use this for the farmyard.

(unchanged) Landuse-farm.png Farm landuse (with livestock).jpg
Farm yard landuse=farmyard Area An area of land with farm buildings like farmhouse, dwellings, farmsteads, sheeds, stables, barns, equipment sheds, feed bunkers, etc. plus the open space in between them and the shrubbery/trees around them. These areas are often fenced in. (unchanged) Farmyard.jpg
Forest (unmanaged) landcover=trees Area A forest, also referred to as a wood or the woods, is an area with a high density of trees. natural=wood Rendering-area-natural-wood.png Biogradska suma.jpg
Forest (managed) landuse=forest Area An area where trees are grown primarily for timber. Note that the land actually may not be covered by trees! For those areas that are covered by trees also use landcover=trees additionally. Small change in meaning. Rendering-area-natural-wood.png Biogradska suma.jpg
Garages - area of landuse=garages Area Use tag landuse=garages to mark areas occupied by garages (one level buildings with boxes commonly for cars, usually made of brick and metal). Usually this area belong to garage cooperative with own name, chairman, budget, rules, security, etc. (unchanged)
Glacier landcover=ice


Area A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation (melting and sublimation) over many years, often centuries. natural=glacier Rendering-Natural glacier OSM.png Glacier.jpg
Grass(land) landcover=grass


Area Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses and other non-woody plants (forbs). However, sedge and rush families can also be found. natural=grassland
Greenfield landuse=greenfield Area An area of undeveloped land - the opposite of brownfield land. (unchanged)
Greenhouses (horticulture) - area with landuse=greenhouse_horticulture Area A greenhouse (also called a glasshouse) is a building in which plants are grown. These structures range in size from small sheds to very large buildings.

This tag is used not for a single building, but for an area with greenhouses.

(unchanged) Greenhouses westland.jpg
Hay - production of landuse=meadow
Area If the area is used to make hay by allowing grass to grow unchecked. See also Meadow (nothing)
Heathland landcover=scrub


Area A heath or heathland is a shrub land habitat found on mainly low quality acidic soils, characterized by open, low growing woody vegetation (low shrubs, usually 0.2–2 m tall). See also Scrubland. natural=heath Rendering-area-natural-heath-yellow.png Heath.jpg
Industrial area landuse=industrial Area An area with dense industry. (unchanged) Landuse-industrial.png
Infiltration basin landuse=basin


Area An infiltration basin (also known as a recharge basin or in some areas, a sump), is a type of best management practice that is used to manage storm water runoff, prevent flooding and downstream erosion, and improve water quality in an adjacent river, stream, lake or bay. It is essentially a shallow artificial pond that is designed to infiltrate storm water though permeable soils into the groundwater aquifer. Infiltration basins do not discharge to a surface water body under most storm conditions, but are designed with overflow structures (pipes, weirs, etc.) that operate during flood conditions. (unchanged)
Landfill landuse=landfill Area A landfill site (also known as tip, dump or rubbish dump and historically as a midden) is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and is the oldest form of waste treatment. (unchanged) Landfill Hawaii.jpg




Area A meadow is a field vegetated primarily by grass and other non-woody plants (grassland). If the meadow is used for grazing, see Grazing. If the meadow is used to make hay, see Hay. Change in meaning of landuse=meadow. Mottey.jpg
Military area landuse=military Area An area used by military forces. (unchanged) Military land.jpg
Mud landcover=wetland
Area Mud is a mixture of water and some combination of soil, silt, and clay. natural=mud natural=wetland Rendering-natural-mud-mapnik.png
Orchard landuse=orchard
Area An orchard is an intentional planting of trees that is maintained for food production. Orchards comprise fruit or nut-producing trees which are grown for commercial production. Typical fruits include apples, apricots, cherry, olive, peach, walnut and much more. Orchards are also sometimes a feature of large gardens, where they serve an aesthetic as well as a productive purpose. A fruit garden is generally synonymous with an orchard, although it is set on a smaller non-commercial scale and may emphasize berry shrubs in preference to fruit trees. (unchanged) Altesland2.jpg
Area for Grazing

(England: fell)

Area Pasture is land used for grazing. Grazing generally describes a type of feeding, in which a animals feeds on plants (such as grasses). Please see also Meadow.

The word fell originally referred to an area of uncultivated high ground used as common grazing.

Peak natural=peak Node Top of a hill or mountain (unchanged) Peak.png Peak.jpg
Plant nursery landuse=plant_nursery Area A nursery is a place where plants are propagated and grown to usable size.

For trees that are grown food food production, see landuse=orchard instead. For greenhouses, see landuse=greenhouse_horticulture.

(unchanged) Cutchogue - Oregon Road - Plant Nursery.jpg
Plantation landuse=plantation
Area A plantation is a artificially established forest, farm or estate. Use this key only for plants that are not used for food production, like tobacco, palm oil, cotton, etc.

For trees that are grown for food production see Orchard. For other plants see Farm land.

(nothing) Pinus taeda plantation.jpg
Quarry landuse=quarry Area A quarry is a type of open-pit mine from which rock or minerals are extracted. Quarries are generally used for extracting building materials, such as dimension stone, construction aggregate, riprap, sand, and gravel. They are often collocated with concrete and asphalt plants due to the requirement for large amounts of aggregate in those materials. (unchanged)

Not to be used for a node.

Railway - area used for landuse=railway Area The area for railway stations, marshalling yards and sidings, railway sheds, etc. and also the rail corridor, i.e. the area alongside rail tracks, which is generally also off-limits to the general public (unchanged) Illustration of Rail.jpg
Reservoir landuse=reservoir

landcover=water or covered=yes

Area An artificial body of water for storage purposes. Maybe covered. man_made=reservoir_covered Landuse-reservoir.png
Residential area landuse=residential Area A residential area is a land use in which housing predominates, as opposed to industrial and commercial areas. Housing may vary significantly between, and through, residential areas. These include single family housing, multi-family residential, or mobile homes. (unchanged) Lawrenceville.jpg
Retail area landuse=retail Area A retail area is a land use in which shops predominates. (unchanged) Trocadero - London 1.jpg
Retention basin landuse=basin


Area A retention basin is used to manage stormwater runoff to prevent flooding and downstream erosion, and improve water quality in an adjacent river, stream, lake or bay. Sometimes called a wet pond, wet detention basin or lake fail, it is an artificial lake with vegetation around the perimeter, and includes a permanent pool of water in its design. (unchanged)
Salt pond landuse=salt_pond Area Salt evaporation ponds, also called salterns or salt pans, are shallow artificial ponds designed to produce salts from sea water or other brines. The seawater or brine is fed into large ponds and water is drawn out through natural evaporation which allows the salt to be subsequently harvested. (unchanged) Salt ponds SF Bay (dro!d).jpg
Sand landcover=sand Area Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal settings is silica, usually in the form of quartz. natural=sand
Scree landcover=bare_rock


Area Scree, or talus, is accumulation of broken rock fragments at the base of crags, mountain cliffs, or valley shoulders. Landforms associated with these materials are sometimes called scree slopes or talus piles. These deposits typically have a concave upwards form, while the maximum inclination of such deposits corresponds to the angle of repose of the mean debris size. natural=scree Scree.jpg
Shelterbelt landuse=shelterbelt Area A shelterbelt or windbreak is a plantation usually made up of one or more rows of trees or shrubs planted in such a manner as to provide shelter from the wind and to protect soil from erosion. They are commonly planted around the edges of fields on farms. Further information should be provided by landcover=trees, landcover=scrub or similar. (nothing) FieldWindbreaks.JPG
landcover=scrub Area Shrubland, scrubland, scrub or brush is a plant community characterized by vegetation dominated by shrubs. A shrub is distinguished from a tree by its multiple stems and shorter height, usually under 5–6 m (15–20 ft) tall. Small, low shrubs, generally less than 2 m tall, such as lavender, periwinkle and most small garden varieties of roses, are often termed subshrubs or bushes. See also Heathland. natural=scrub Rendering-area-natural-scrub.png Starr 010831-0015 Morella faya.jpg
Solid rock landcover=bare_rock
Node An area where the bedrock is mostly uncovered leaving large areas of bare rock in big slabs or as a featureless area. natural=bare_rock (proposed) Coastal rock formation.jpg
Spring natural=spring Node A spring — also known as a rising or resurgence — is a natural situation where water flows to the surface of the earth from underground. (unchanged) Spring.p.5.png La Sorgue, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.JPG
Stone - single one natural=stone Node A single, large, freestanding natural boulder or rock fragment that is not attached to the underlying terrain and arrived in its position by natural means, such as weathering, flooding or glaciation. (unchanged) Big rock at saynatsalo.jpg
Tree - single one natural=tree Node A single, lone and significant tree. (unchanged) Tree2.png Tree.jpg
Vineyard landuse=vineyard Area A vineyard is a plantation of grape-bearing vines, grown mainly for winemaking, but also raisins, table grapes and non-alcoholic grape juice. (unchanged)
Volcano natural=volcano Node A volcano is an opening exposed on the earth's surface where volcanic material is emitted. All volcanoes contain a central vent underlying the summit crater of the volcano. (unchanged) DenglerSW-Stromboli-20040928-1230x800.jpg
Water landcover=water


Area An area of water, e.g. a lake. natural=water Rendering-area-natural-water.png Natural water.jpg
Wetland landcover=wetland


Area A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, such that it takes on characteristics that distinguish it as a distinct ecosystem. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands is the characteristic vegetation that is adapted to its unique soil conditions: Wetlands are made up primarily of hydric soil, which supports aquatic plants. natural=wetland Rendering-area-natural-marsh-osmarender.png Vatmark.jpg

Alternative to subtags

Some areas would require more than one tag to properly describe them. For example an apple orchard would require landuse=orchard and orchard=apple. An alternative approach would be to combine those two tags and use landuse=orchard:apple instead.


As landuse=* and landcover=* describe areas which usually intersect/overlap each other, we need a rule which should be rendered on top of the others.

  • First render the landcover.
  • On top of that render the landuse. In some situations it might be sensible to render the landuse transparent to some degree.
  • Now render the surface.
  • Last of all render the natural objects.

Related Tags

See also