|Feature : Landcover|
|Is used to describe the physical material at the surface of the earth. Land covers include grass, asphalt, trees, bare ground, water, etc.|
Landcover is used to describe the physical material at the surface of the earth. Land covers include grass, asphalt, trees, bare ground, water, etc. Also see Landuse which describes the human use of land including tags such as landuse=farmland, leisure=park or amenity=school.
Tagging of landcover is often only implied by other tags at present, for example a park may be assumed to be covered in grass, but in some places this may in fact be trees or sand or some other cover. The following keys imply or specifically indicate landcover properties:
- landuse=* - many types of Landuse imply a certain type of landcover (like landuse=meadow) but some do not (like landuse=military) and others can be ambiguous in this regard, like in case of landuse=greenfield, which can imply any type of vegetation or bare ground. Same applies for other keys indicating Landuse like amenity=*, leisure=* and tourism=*.
- surface=* - specifies the surface material of a feature such as a highway, parking lot, sporting pitch, or beach. It is used as a secondary tag for a main feature.
- natural=* - many tags in this key are used to tag Natural or semi-natural area features with a clearly implied landcover. Some tags do not specify a particular surface or landcover, for example: natural=beach uses surface=* for the specific surface material, and natural=desert, which requires mapping more specific area features such as natural=sand and natural=scrub to define the landcover.
- landcover=* - this key was proposed in Proposed features/landcover to directly tag landcover types, but is much less commonly used.
One of the most controversial cases for landcover mapping is woodland/forests. Some mappers use landuse=forest or natural=wood for any area covered by trees, while other mappers prefer to use these tags in particular ways. See Forest for more details.
The key used does not always specify a difference between landuse or landcover. For example landuse=grass usually describes an area covered by grass, rather than a specific landuse. Similarly, landuse=reservoir and landuse=basin are used for the area covered by water in artificial lakes and basins, rather than for the entire land area associated with the reservoir or basin.
Example of current landcover tagging
The following list is incomplete. Please add to it. The table is sortable by clicking on the relevant column heading.
The column NLCD92 refers to the classification according to the National Land Cover Database, see more below.
Natural and Semi-natural Areas
|Bog||92 Herbaceous Wetlands||Natural||natural=wetland and wetland=bog. Also see wetland=fen.|
|Bare earth||31 Bare Rock/Sand/Clay||Natural or Developed||See mud below for usually-wet areas of bare loam, silt or clay soil. No well-document tag for bare, dry soil in cold or hot deserts, except natural=sand. May be included in natural=tundra and natural=desert currently, but these tags are not specific.|
|Bracken (ferns)||71 Grasslands/Herbaceous||Natural or Agriculture||Areas covered by ferns are usually tagged with natural=grassland or landuse=meadow. There is no documented, more specific tag yet.|
|Forest, Deciduous||41 Deciduous forest||Natural or Agriculture||landuse=forest or natural=wood with leaf_cycle=deciduous. Also see swamp wetland. See leaf_type=* as well.|
|Forest, Evergreen||42 Evergreen forest||Natural or Agriculture||landuse=forest or natural=wood with leaf_cycle=evergreen. Also see swamp and mangrove wetlands. See leaf_type=* as well.|
|Forest, Mixed||43 Mixed forest||Natural or Agriculture||landuse=forest or natural=wood with leaf_cycle=mixed. Also see swamp wetland. See leaf_type=* as well.|
|Grass||71 Grasslands/Herbaceous||Natural or Agriculture||landuse=grass, landuse=meadow, natural=grassland, or surface=grass + another feature are used for areas covered by grasses, pulses and sedges. Sometimes includes other non-woody plants.|
|Gravel||31 Bare Rock/Sand/Clay||Natural or Developed||natural=scree or natural=shingle, or surface=gravel + another features. There are a few uses of natural=gravel but this tag is undocumented. Also see landuse=quarry for gravel extraction sites and surface=gravel for gravel-surfaced man-made features such as roads, parking lots.|
|Heath||51 Shrubland||Natural||natural=heath is used for heath and other areas of dwarf shrubs.|
|Herbs||71 Grasslands/Herbaceous||Natural||landuse=meadow or natural=grassland are sometimes used for areas covered by non-woody plants in addition to the usual grasses, pulses and sedges.|
|Ice||12 Perennial Ice/Snow||Natural||natural=glacier is used for glaciers and ice caps. Note that in Antartica south of 60 degrees, all land is assumed to be ice-covered and is not specifically mapped. Sea ice is not mapped.|
|Lichen||N/A||Natural||No documented specific tag. Usually tagged as unvegetated with natural=bare_rock or included in a larger area of natural=tundra or natural=fell.|
|Marsh||92 Herbaceous Wetlands||Natural||natural=wetland and wetland=marsh. Also see wetland=saltmarsh|
|Mangrove||91 Woody Wetlands||Natural||natural=wetland and wetland=mangrove|
|Mosses||N/A||Natural||wetland=bog or wetland=fen + natural=wetland for bogs and fens. No documented specific tag for other moss areas. Sometimes included in a larger area of natural=tundra or natural=fell.|
|Mud||31 Bare Rock/Sand/Clay||Natural||natural=mud or natural=wetland with a supplemental tag wetland=mud or wetland=tidalflat.|
|Pebbles||31 Bare Rock/Sand/Clay||Natural||natural=shingle or natural=beach + surface=pebbles.|
|Reedbed||92 Herbaceous Wetlands||Natural||natural=wetland and wetland=reedbed|
|Reef||31 Bare Rock/Sand/Clay||Natural||natural=reef + reef=* or surface=* to specify rock/coral/etc - including reefs which are partially above sea level at low tide.|
|Rock||31 Bare Rock/Sand/Clay||Natural||natural=bare_rock for bedrock Also see natural=scree and natural=shingle for loose stones.|
|Saltmarsh||92 Herbaceous Wetlands||Natural||natural=wetland and wetland=saltmarsh|
|Sand||Natural||Natural||natural=sand. Also see natural=beach + surface=sand|
|Scrub||51 Shrubland||Natural||natural=scrub is used for areas of shrubs and bushes|
|Stones||31 Bare Rock/Sand/Clay||Natural||natural=scree, natural=shingle, or natural=beach + surface=stones. Also see natural=bare_rock for bedrock and large stones.|
|Sea||11 Open Water||Natural||The natural=coastline tag is used to define the boundary between land and the sea (at the high water mark). The boundary between the land and the sea is rich in different landcovers, see 'gravel', 'mangrove', 'saltmarsh', 'sand', 'swamp' and 'tidal flat'.|
|Shoal||31 Bare Rock/Sand/Clay||Natural||natural=shoal + surface=* to specify a shallow area in the sea, exposed at low tide, covered by sand/gravel/etc.|
|Swamp||91 Woody Wetlands||Natural||natural=wetland and wetland=swamp|
|Snow||12 Perennial Ice/Snow||Natural||Snowfields are not included in Openstreetmap, because they are not permanent features. Instead map the summer vegetation or exposed minerals. However, permanent ice caps and glaciers are mapped with natural=glacier, see ice above.|
|Tidal flat||31 Bare Rock/Sand/Clay||Natural||natural=wetland and wetland=tidalflat|
|Trees||41 Deciduous / 42 Evergreen / 43 Mixed forest||Natural or Agriculture||Currently landuse=forest and natural=wood are both commonly used for any tree-covered area, although some mappers use these tags in more specific ways. Also see swamp and mangrove wetlands. See leaf_cycle=* for evergreen vs deciduous and leaf_type=* for needleleaved vs broadleaved vs leafless.|
|Water||11 Open Water||Natural or Developed||waterway=riverbank, natural=water, landuse=reservoir. See also: 'sea' and landuse=basin. For areas intermittently covered by water add intermittent=yes. The dry landcover may also be mapped separately.|
Agriculture, Developed and Built environments
Many tags for landuse, leisure and developed areas also imply a particular landcover. See Landuse for more examples.
|Allotments||82 Row Crops||Agriculture||landuse=allotments - allotment gardens, usually herbaceous crops and ornamentals|
|Basin||11 Open Water||Water||landuse=basin - a man made water control or storage device. Used only for the (intermittently) water-covered area|
|Brownfield||33 Transitional||Developed||landuse=brownfield - land scheduled for new development which was previously used for industrial purposes, generally industrial landcover.|
|Commercial||23 Commercial/Industrial/Transportation||Developed||landuse=commercial - office and non-retail service buildings.|
|Construction||33 Transitional||Developed||landuse=construction - area currently under construction|
|Fallow||84 Fallow||Agriculture||No specific tag has been documented. landuse=farmland is often used for fallow land. landuse=meadow may be used when the area is covered in grasses.|
|Farmland||82 Row Crops/83 Grains||Agriculture||landuse=farmland is most commonly used for row crops and grains|
|Garden||85 Urban/Recreational grasses||Leisure||leisure=garden - gardens with grasses, flowers, herbs and ornamental shrubs.|
|Garages||23 Commercial/Industrial/Transportation||Transportation||landuse=garages - covered motor vehicle parking garages|
|Greenhouses||N/A||Agriculture||landuse=greenhouse_horticulture - agricultural area covered in greenhouses|
|Industrial||23 Commercial/Industrial/Transportation||Developed||landuse=industrial - Industrial buildings, works, warehouses and associated infrastructure.|
|Landfill||33 Transitional||Developed||landuse=landfill - waste / rubbish / trash and debris.|
|Meadow||81 Pasture/Hay||Agriculture||landuse=meadow - also used for pastures, both covered with grasses and herbs.|
|Mine (open pit)||32 Quarries/Strip Mines/Gravel Pits||Developed||landuse=quarry - used for quarries and open pit mines with exposed minerals.|
|Orchard||61 Orchards/Vineyards||Agriculture||landuse=orchard - also used for coffee, tea and palm oil plantations|
|Parking||23 Commercial/Industrial/Transportation||Transportation||amenity=parking, amenity=motorcycle_parking or amenity=bicycle_parking. Specific parking lot surface is tagged with surface=*.|
|Pasture||81 Pasture/Hay||Agriculture||landuse=meadow - used for meadow or pasture covered with grasses and herbs.|
|Plant nursery||N/A||Agriculture||landuse=plant_nursery - growing plants, shrubs and trees|
|Plantation||61 Orchards/Vineyards||Agriculture||landuse=orchard - for coffee, tea, banana and oil palm plantations|
|Quarry||32 Quarries/Strip Mines/Gravel Pits||Developed||landuse=quarry - rock, gravel or sand.|
|Railway||23 Commercial/Industrial/Transportation||Transportation||landuse=railway - railway tracks, embankments, yards, etc.|
|Recreation ground||85 Urban/Recreational grasses||Developed||landuse=recreation_ground - usually grass. Also see park|
|Reservoir||11 Open Water||Water||landuse=reservoir or man_made=reservoir_covered or newer tagging natural=water + water=reservoir - water areas.|
|Residential||21/22 Low/High Intensity Residential||Developed||landuse=residential - houses or other residential buildings and associated yards, lawns, gardens, garages and parking.|
|Retail||23 Commercial/Industrial/Transportation||Developed||landuse=retail - retail buildings and related features.|
|Salt pond||11 Open Water||Water||landuse=salt_pond - salt or (intermittent) water surface.|
|Village green||85 Urban/Recreational grasses||Leisure||landuse=village_green - grassy area|
|Vineyard||61 Orchards/Vineyards||Agriculture||landuse=vineyard - grape vines|
Systems of Landcover classification
The landcover classification systems mentioned in the following are all based on the notion that all land surface can be classified into a limited set of landcover classes, either a fixed a priori classification or a dynamic set of a certain number of classes. Since OpenStreetMap uses a globally uniform but open tagging system - see Any tags you like - neither of these can be directly translated into OSM tag combinations.
A priori and a posteriori systems
In an a priori classification system the classes are abstractions of the types actually occurring. The approach is based upon definition of classes before any data collection actually takes place. This means that all possible combinations of diagnostic criteria must be dealt with beforehand in the classification. The main advantage is that classes are standardized independent of the area and the means used. The disadvantage, however, is that this method is rigid, as some of the field samples may not be easily assignable to one of the pre-defined classes.
A posteriori classification differs fundamentally by its direct approach and its freedom from preconceived notions. The approach is based upon definition of classes after clustering similarity or dissimilarity of the field samples collected. The advantage of this type of classification is its flexibility and adaptability compared to the implicit rigidity of the a priori classification. The a posteriori approach implies a minimum of generalization. This type of classification better fits the collected field observations in a specific area. At the same time, however, because an a posteriori classification depends on the specific area described and is adapted to local conditions, it is unable to define standardized classes. Clustering of samples to define the classes can only be done after data collection, and the relevance of certain criteria in a certain area may be limited when used elsewhere or in ecologically quite different regions.
NLCD92 - National Land Cover Database
National Land Cover Database (NLCD) is a land cover classification scheme that has been applied consistently across all 50 United States and Puerto Rico. NLCD is based primarily on Landsat satellite data.
|Water||11 Open Water
12 Perennial Ice/Snow
|Developed||21 Low Intensity Residential
22 High Intensity Residential
|Barren Land||31 Bare Rock/Sand/Clay
32 Quarries/Strip Mines/Gravel Pits
|Forested Upland||41 Deciduous Forest
42 Evergreen Forest
43 Mixed Forest
|Non-Natural Woody||61 Orchards/Vineyards/Other|
|Herbaceous Upland Natural/Semi-natural Vegetation||71 Grasslands/Herbaceous|
|Herbaceous Planted/Cultivated||81 Pasture/Hay
82 Row Crops
83 Small Grains
85 Urban/Recreational grasses
|Wetlands||91 Woody Wetlands
92 Emergent Herbaceous Wetlands
|See USGS landcover classes.|
LCCS - Land Cover Classification System
The Land Cover Classification System (LCCS) is the result of an initiative to take a first step towards an internationally agreed reference base for land cover. The objectives of the Africover Programme of the Environment and Natural Resources Service (SDRN), FAO, are to develop an approach for conceptualizing, defining and classifying land cover.
Definition: Land cover is the observed (bio)physical cover on the earth's surface.
One of the basic principles adopted in the new approach is that a given land cover class is defined by the combination of a set of independent diagnostic attributes, the so-called classifiers. There are 83 main classifiers (Type A), 13 Type B, 19 Type C, 3 Type D, 7 Type E, 10 Type F, 2 Type G (numbers are not approved).
The creation of the land cover class is given by the combination of a set of pre-defined pure land cover classifiers. This set of classifiers is different for each of the eight main land cover types. E.g. trees can have classifier A1 or A3; shrubs can have A2 or A4; B1 stands for large to medium sized fields or height 7-2m or Dunes.
The main criteria is the uppermost canopy layer. This means that the dominant layer goes from Tree canopy to Shrub to Herbaceous/Forbs/Graminoids.
The user can describe up to three layers of stratification (including the main layer) for Terrestrial Vegetation (A12) and up to two layers in Aquatic or Regularly Flooded Vegetation (A24). "Tree Savannah" is clearly defined by two main elements: a Herbaceous vegetation layer and a Sparse Trees layer. Thus, the Stratification of the two elements Herbaceous and Tree layer is crucial for the definition of this class. "Closed Forest" is clearly defined by the element of a Closed Trees layer. Limitations have been introduced for this class in the use of Stratification. All limitations in use of Stratification are built into the software application.
It is crucial where the classifier (e.g. trees) appears, in the main layer or second or third layer.
Examples for results of LCCS-Code in main type A12. Natural and Semi-Natural Vegetation:
- A3.A10 - Closed forest
- A3.A10.B2.C1.D1.E2 - Broadleaved dedicious forest
- A3.A10.B2.C1.D1.E2.F2.F5.F7.G2 - Multi-layered broadleaved dedicious forest
- this combinations have a completely different meaning in other main types
|Main types||Classifier||Classifier||Classifier||Picture||Some possible results after classification|
|A11. Cultivated and Managed Terrestrial Areas||A1. Trees||A7. Broadleaved||Leaf Phenology||Tree Crops|
|A8. Needleleaved||Leaf Phenology|
|A2. Shrubs||A7. Broadleaved||Leaf Phenology|
|A8. Needleleaved||Leaf Phenology|
|A3. Herbaceous||A4. Graminoids|
|A5. Non Graminoids|
|A6. Urban vegetated areas||A11. Parks|
|A12. Natural and Semi-Natural Vegetation||A1. Woody||A3. Trees||Cover
|A2. Herbaceous||A5. Forbs|
|A7. Lichens/Mosses||A8. Lichens|
|A23. Cultivated aquatic or regulary flooded areas||A1. Graminoids||Aquatic Or Regularly Flooded Graminoid Crops|
Aquatic Or Regularly Flooded Non-Graminoid Crops
|A2. Non graminoids|
|A24. Natural and Semi-Natural Aquatic or Regularly Flooded Vegetation||A1. Woody||A3. Trees||Forest|
|A2. Herbaceous||A5. Forbs|
|A7. Lichens/Mosses||A10. Lichens|
|B15. Artificial Surfaces and Associated Areas:||A1. Built-up||A3. Linear||A7. Roads||Built-Up Areas|
Non Built-Up Areas
|A4. Non Linear||A12. Industrial Areas|
|A11. Urban Areas|
|A2. Non built-up||A5. Waste dump deposits|
|A6. Extraction sites|
|B16. Bare Areas||A1. Consolidated||A3. Bare Rock a/o Coarse Fragments||A7. Bare Rock||Consolidated Areas|
|A4. Hardpans||A9 Ironpan
|A2. Unconsolidated||A5. Bare Soil||Not stony|
|A13. Very stony|
|A6. Loose and shifting sand||Not stony|
|A13. Very stony|
|B27. Artificial Waterbodies, Snow and Ice:||A1. Artificial Waterbodies||A4. Flowing||Artificial Waterbodies|
|A2. Artificial Snow|
|A3. Artificial Ice|
|B28. Natural Waterbodies, Snow and Ice:||A1. Natural Waterbodies||A4. Flowing||Natural Waterbodies|
|A2. Natural Snow|
|A3. Natural Ice|
|See Land Cover Classification System (LCCS).|