|Feature : Land use|
|Land use describes the human use of land, for example fields, pastures, and settlements.|
This page guides on the definition of land use and how it should be mapped.
Land use, as the name suggests, describes what an area of land is used for e.g. housing, commercial activities, farming, education, leisure, etc.
It is related to 'Landcover' - land cover describes the physical thing/surface covering the land. The two concepts are complementary and can be used together. The land use might be 'military' but the land cover might be 'heathland' or the land use might be 'leisure' and the land cover might be 'grass': the form (landcover) is related to the function (land use).
Generally a piece of land is tagged with one land use only. Sometimes mappers give more detail within a larger area. For example a leisure=playground tag may be used on a playground that is fully contained within a particular landuse=residential area.
In addition, areas with tags indicating land use will in some cases intersect. See for example intersection of landuse=military, landuse=forest and protected area.
How to map land use
Different techniques for mapping land use exist.
Mapping as nodes
Land use by its nature is an area. But if it's not feasible to map a land use as an area, then it might be mapped as node and updated to an area later. For example it is preferable to map landuse=cemetery as node rather than to skip it.
Mapping large uninterrupted areas
When first mapping a place many mappers draw large uninterrupted shapes around areas that are assumed to have a single land use (this technique is suggested on LearnOSM.org). Typically these areas might be tagged with quite broad uses such as landuse=commercial, landuse=industrial or landuse=residential (where this is discussed further).
While this is useful as a starting point, it quickly becomes necessary to break these areas down to add more detail to the map - for example to add schools, health facilities, parks etc. into broad areas initially outlined as residential.
Mapping land use in more detail
There are two main approaches to mapping land use in more detail. They differ primarily in how they treat land dedicated to the public highway or other transport networks.
1. Mapping the reality on the ground
The key to this method is to strictly draw the boundary around each land use following its boundary in the real world. For example to map the land use of a school draw the edge of the shape following the boundary of the land that is used by/available to the school; to map a residential area include land that actually belongs to the houses and their gardens/private driveways.
Land that is dedicated to the public highway (both the carriageway and the pavement/verge) is not land that is available for other uses i.e. you can't build a house on it, and so it shouldn't be mapped as such. While a landuse=highway tag has been proposed it is not currently in use and so land used as public highway should simply be left blank.
This method largely keeps the highway network lines and land use polygons separate making subsequent editing simpler and more accurate. In urban areas the result will be 'islands' of land use polygons in between the lines of the highway network.
2. Using highway centrelines
Another approach that some mappers have taken is to either draw land use polygons that extend over the public highway sharing nodes with highway centrelines, or to fragment the highway network and create land use areas from relations of the fragments. While this results in less drawn geometry subsequent editing is more complicated. This increases the risk of damaging not only the land use areas but also the highway network. It is also less accurate, extending adjoining land uses over land that is dedicated to the public highway.
How to tag land use
The following table is a 'work in progress'. Click on the symbols in the headings to sort the tables in different ways.
|Aerodrome (airport)||Transportation||aeroway=aerodrome or landuse=military + military=airfield|
|Basin||Water||landuse=basin - a man made water control or storage device. Used only for the (intermittently) water-covered area|
|Beach||Natural or Developed||natural=beach. leisure=beach_resort Beach is landform alongside a body of water which consists of loose particles.|
|Brownfield||Developed||landuse=brownfield - land scheduled for new development which was previously used for other purposes.|
|Cemetery||Developed or Natural||landuse=cemetery or amenity=grave_yard|
|College||Developed||amenity=college - an institue of Further Education (e.g. Junior College or Continuing Education)|
|Commercial||Developed||landuse=commercial - offices and non-retail services|
|Construction||Developed||landuse=construction - area currently under construction|
|Fallow||Agriculture||No specific tag has been documented. Fallow land often indicates that the land is used for agriculture see landuse=farmland or landuse=meadow.|
|Farm land||Agriculture||landuse=farmland and landuse=farmyard|
|Forestry||Agriculture||Some think there is no specific tag. landuse=forest is used by some for areas that are used to obtain forest products, by others simply for any tree-covered areas. See Forest for related tags and discussion of the situation.|
|Garages||Developed||landuse=garages (often within landuse=residential).|
|Graveyard||Developed or Natural||landuse=cemetery or amenity=grave_yard|
|Grazing||Agriculture||landuse=meadow for pasture used for grazing animals or for hay or silage for animals. There is no specific tag for low-intensity rangeland. For other areas of grass see Landcover.|
|Greenfield||Other||landuse=greenfield is used to describe land that has been scheduled for some sort of construction.|
|Highways||Transportation||No approved tag at present, but there is a proposal to use landuse=highway for the purpose.|
|Meadow||Agriculture||landuse=meadow - also used for pastures|
|Military||Military||landuse=military, and optionally also military=naval_base, military=range, military=danger_area or military=barracks. For military aerodrome use aeroway=aerodrome and aerodrome=military or military=airfield.|
|Mine (open pit)||Developed||landuse=quarry - used for quarries and open pit mines|
|National Park||Leisure||boundary=national_park. See also boundary=protected_area|
|Nature reserve||Leisure||leisure=nature_reserve. See also boundary=protected_area and the discussion about terms (International consistency)|
|Orchard||Agriculture||landuse=orchard - also used for coffee, tea and palm oil plantations|
|Park||Leisure||leisure=park (sometimes smaller parks are included within landuse=residential.|
|Parking||Transportation||amenity=parking, amenity=motorcycle_parking or amenity=bicycle_parking.|
|Pasture||Agriculture||landuse=meadow - used for meadow or pasture|
|Plantation||Agriculture||landuse=orchard - for coffee, tea, banana and oil palm plantations|
|Quarry||Developed||landuse=quarry - also used for open pit mines|
|Recreation ground||Developed||landuse=recreation_ground - also see park|
|Religious||Developed||landuse=religious or amenity=place_of_worship|
|Reservoir||Water||landuse=reservoir or man_made=reservoir_covered or newer tagging natural=water + water=reservoir|
|School||Developed||amenity=school. Sometimes within a landuse=residential area.|
|Salt pond||Water||landuse=salt_pond - used only for the intermittently water-covered area of the pond|
|University||Developed||amenity=university. Possibly included within a broader landuse category.|
|Waste water treatment||Developed||man_made=wastewater_plant|
Challenges mapping land use
key:landuse values not used to indicate land use in all cases
Land use tags have been evolving over time and haven't always been used consistently. As an example landuse=forest has been used to indicate any tree-covered area rather than to indicate areas specifically used for forestry and the production of timber. In many cases these tags represent the landcover rather than only the land use.
|Grass||landuse=grass does not always describe a land use, it often describes a Landcover.|
|Forest||landuse=forest is not clearly distinguished from natural=wood as both usually are areas covered with trees. Determining if the trees are actually used and in what way is difficult. See Forest for more details.|
National Land Use Database vs Openstreetmap
The following table compares land use classes from the UK National Land Use Database (NLUD) in Great Britain, and the commonly used land use tags on OpenStreetMap (mostly values of the key landuse=*).
If a tag sometimes describes more than one land use category, it is followed by an asterisk (*).
In many cases, a sub-category on the NLUD will be represented by several different features in Openstreetmap (for example, community services). In other cases, several categories may used the same tag (for example, landuse=industrial).
|National Land Use Database||OSM land use tags|
|Agriculture and fisheries||Agriculture||U011||landuse=farmland|
|Fisheries||U011||landuse=aquaculture for specific areas of land or water used for aquaculture.|
|Forestry||Managed forest||U021||Usually landuse=forest (but sometimes mapped as natural=wood). See Forest|
|Un-managed forest*||U022||Commonly natural=wood (but often mapped as landuse=forest). See Forest|
|Minerals||Mineral workings and quarries||U031||landuse=quarry - quarries, gravel pits and surface mines|
landuse=salt_pond - salt evaporation ponds, salterns
|Recreation and leisure||Outdoor amenity and open spaces||U041||leisure=park, leisure=garden, leisure=beach_resort, leisure=dog_park, leisure=playground, landuse=recreation_ground* (also sports). Sometimes landuse=village_green*, landuse=grass* (but see links for the issues with these two tags).|
|Amusement and show places||U042||tourism=zoo, tourism=theme_park, tourism=aquarium, leisure=water_park and other values of leisure=* and tourism=*.|
|Libraries, museums and galleries||U043||tourism=museum, amenity=library, amenity=theatre, amenity=arts centre, tourism=gallery; also see historic=*.|
|Sports facilities and grounds||U044||leisure=sports_centre, leisure=pitch, leisure=stadium, leisure=golf_course, and other values of leisure=*. Also see landuse=recreation_ground.|
|Holiday parks and camps||U045||tourism=picnic_site, tourism=camp_site, tourism=caravan_site, leisure=summer_camp|
|Allotments and city farms||U046||landuse=allotments for allotment gardens. Also landuse=farmland is sometimes used for urban farms, leisure=garden is sometimes used for household gardens.|
|Transport||Transport tracks and ways||U051||landuse=industrial|
|Transport terminals and interchanges||U052|
|Car parks||U053||landuse=garages, amenity=parking|
|Vehicle storage [other than cars]||U054||landuse=industrial, landuse=railway or landuse=depot|
|Goods and freight terminals||U055||landuse=industrial|
|Waterways||U056||waterway=riverbank (channelised rivers)|
natural=water + water=* (canal, lock, etc)
|Utilities and infrastructure||Energy production and distribution||U061||power=plant + landuse=industrial|
|Water storage and treatment||U062||landuse=reservoir|
|Cemeteries and crematoria||U064||landuse=cemetery|
|Post and telecommunications||U065||landuse=commercial|
|Hotels, boarding and guest houses||U072||landuse=commercial for general area.|
Specific features mapped as tourism=hotel, tourism=hostel, tourism=guest_house, tourism=motel, leisure=resort, etc.
|Residential institutions||U073||amenity=social_facility + social_facility=* or amenity=nursing_home|
|Community services||Medical and health care services||U081||(amenity=hospital|
|Places of worship||U082||landuse=religious or amenity=place_of_worship|
|Education||U083||(amenity=school, amenity=university, amenity=college, amenity=kindergarten, etc...)|
|Community services||U084||amenity=police, amenity=fire_station, amenity=townhall, amenity=courthouse, office=government, etc.|
|Retail||Shops||U091||landuse=retail or shop=mall|
|Financial and professional services||U092||landuse=retail or landuse=commercial|
|Restaurants and cafes||U093||landuse=retail|
|Public houses and bars||U094||landuse=retail|
|Industry and business||Manufacturing||U101||landuse=industrial|
|Vacant and derelict||Vacant||U111||disused:landuse=* or landuse=* + disused=*, also see landuse=brownfield|
|Derelict||U112||abandoned:landuse=* or landuse=* + abandoned=*, also see landuse=brownfield|
|Unused land||Unused land||U131||Not mapped as a particular landuse, but see Landcover and boundary=protected_area|
GB discussion on the mapping of Land Use & Land Cover
In March 2021 the subject of how to map land cover & land use features, in relation to adjacent highways was discussed on talk-gb. There was a wide ranging discussion, but no clear consensus about how the features should be mapped. Where those features border with a highway, the mapper should avoid using shared nodes if possible.
- OSM Landuse Landcover: A WebGIS application to explore the OpenStreetMap database specifically in terms of land use and land cover information.