Landcover

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Logo. Feature : Landcover
One example for Feature : Landcover
Description
Is used to describe the physical material at the surface of the earth. Land covers include grass, asphalt, trees, bare ground, water, etc.
Tags

landuse=*
natural=*
surface=*
landcover=*

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

Landcover NLCD92 Category Comment
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.

Landcover NLCD92 Category Comment
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

Proposals

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.

NLCD 92 Land Cover Class Definitions
Main class Sub-classes Picture
Water 11 Open Water
12 Perennial Ice/Snow
Lake Billy Chinook, Deschutes National Forest, Oregon (photo by Bob Nichol).jpg
Developed 21 Low Intensity Residential
22 High Intensity Residential
23 Commercial/Industrial/Transportation
New-York-Jan2005.jpg
Barren Land 31 Bare Rock/Sand/Clay
32 Quarries/Strip Mines/Gravel Pits
33 Transitional
Hörnlihütte weg.jpg
Forested Upland 41 Deciduous Forest
42 Evergreen Forest
43 Mixed Forest
WaldAlfeld.jpg
Shrubland 51 Shrubland Starr 010831-0016 Morella faya.jpg
Non-Natural Woody 61 Orchards/Vineyards/Other Aerial View - Landschaft Markgräflerland1.jpg
Herbaceous Upland Natural/Semi-natural Vegetation 71 Grasslands/Herbaceous Konza1.jpg
Herbaceous Planted/Cultivated 81 Pasture/Hay
82 Row Crops
83 Small Grains
84 Fallow
85 Urban/Recreational grasses
040719 172 dorset marnhull2.jpg
Wetlands 91 Woody Wetlands
92 Emergent Herbaceous Wetlands
Cepkeliu marsh.jpg
See USGS landcover classes.

NLCD92 Colour Classification FINAL.jpg

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
LCCS Landcover Classification
Main types Classifier Classifier Classifier Picture Some possible results after classification
A11. Cultivated and Managed Terrestrial Areas A1. Trees A7. Broadleaved Leaf Phenology Lemon Orchard in the Galilee by David Shankbone.jpg Tree Crops
Shrub Crops
Herbaceous Crops
Graminoid Crops
Non-Graminoid Crops
Managed Lands
A8. Needleleaved Leaf Phenology
A2. Shrubs A7. Broadleaved Leaf Phenology Aerial View - Landschaft Markgräflerland1.jpg
A8. Needleleaved Leaf Phenology
A3. Herbaceous A4. Graminoids Okolí Huklivého 001.jpg
A5. Non Graminoids 040719 172 dorset marnhull2.jpg
A6. Urban vegetated areas A11. Parks
A12. Parklands
A13. Lawns Traffic Island, Coulby Newham - geograph.org.uk - 91699.jpg
A12. Natural and Semi-Natural Vegetation A1. Woody A3. Trees Cover
Height
Leaf type
Leaf Phenology
WaldAlfeld.jpg Forest
Woodland
Thicket
Shrubland
Grasslands
Sparse Vegetation
Lichens/Mosses
A4. Shrubs Cover
Height
Leaf type
Leaf Phenology
Starr 010831-0016 Morella faya.jpg
A2. Herbaceous A5. Forbs Lüneburger Heide 109.jpg
A6. Graminoid Konza1.jpg
A7. Lichens/Mosses A8. Lichens
A9. Mosses
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 Dili Reisfelder.jpg
A3. Woody
A24. Natural and Semi-Natural Aquatic or Regularly Flooded Vegetation A1. Woody A3. Trees Wetland-marshall-county-indiana.jpg Forest
Woodland
Closed Shrubs
Open Shrubs
Grasslands
Sparse Vegetation
Lichens/Mosses
A4. Shrubs
A2. Herbaceous A5. Forbs
A6. Graminoid Tourbière 03 - Parc de Frontenac - Juillet 2008.jpg
A7. Lichens/Mosses A10. Lichens
A11. Mosses
B15. Artificial Surfaces and Associated Areas: A1. Built-up A3. Linear A7. Roads Motorway-photo.jpg Built-Up Areas
Non Built-Up Areas
A10. Railroads Passenger-rail.JPG
A11. Pipelines OilPipeAlaska.JPG
A4. Non Linear A12. Industrial Areas Kraftwerk Moorburg (Hamburg-Moorburg).1.phb.ajb.jpg
A11. Urban Areas New-York-Jan2005.jpg
A2. Non built-up A5. Waste dump deposits South East New Territories Landfill 2.jpg
A6. Extraction sites Arandis Mine quer.jpg
B16. Bare Areas A1. Consolidated A3. Bare Rock a/o Coarse Fragments A7. Bare Rock Hörnlihütte weg.jpg Consolidated Areas
Unconsolidated Areas
A8. Gravel Scree.jpg
A4. Hardpans A9 Ironpan
A10 Petrocalcic
A11 Petrogypsic
Pamukkale 2006.jpg
A2. Unconsolidated A5. Bare Soil Not stony Duerre.jpg
A12. Stony
A13. Very stony La hamada noire du Tademayt 1890.jpg
A6. Loose and shifting sand Not stony Libya 4608 Idehan Ubari Dunes Luca Galuzzi 2007.jpg
A12. Stony
A13. Very stony 260 Boa Vista.jpg
B27. Artificial Waterbodies, Snow and Ice: A1. Artificial Waterbodies A4. Flowing MurtfaltalrDanubeChannel.JPG Artificial Waterbodies
Artificial Snow
Artificial Ice
A5. Standing Lakevyrnwysummer.jpg
A2. Artificial Snow
A3. Artificial Ice
B28. Natural Waterbodies, Snow and Ice: A1. Natural Waterbodies A4. Flowing Wilke.Aussicht.01.jpg Natural Waterbodies
Natural Snow
Natural Ice
A5. Standing Mount Pinatubo 20081229 01.jpg
A2. Natural Snow Cotopaxi volcano 2008-06-27T1322.jpg
A3. Natural Ice Grosser Aletschgletscher 3178.JPG
See Land Cover Classification System (LCCS).