Proposed features/Landcover Barren

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Barren Land Cover
Status: Voting (under way)
Proposed by: LorenzoStucchi
Tagging: landcover=barren
Applies to: area, relation
Definition: Soil area without vegetation
Drafted on: 2019-04-05
RFC start: 2019-04-06
Vote start: 2019-04-24
Vote end: 2019-05-08


The proposal is from Eng. Gorica Bratic and from the idea of mapping deforestation and proposes this tag as a general class of an area without vegetation and with bare soil.


The tag barren is meant to delineate land without or with very sparse vegetation (known also as bareland or barren land). The main objective of introducing this tag is to track deforestation in Amazonian rainforest. Currently available tags (i.e. natural=bare_rock and natural=sand ) do not encompass bare soil that is a result of vegetation loss (i.e. soil where vegetation was removed by human, or due to some human-caused or natural processes affecting the soil fertility). As a matter of fact, if the bare soil contains organic matter (as if it case with deforested areas), most probably the vegetation will grow back unless it is further modified by human. In any case, mapping this transient period is important as it might last couple of years. Other than deforestation, area can be characterized as barren whenever the vegetation loss takes place due to the contamination, fire, droughts, soil erosion, etc. The tag barren can generally encompass all the natural surfaces where the vegetation is missing due to natural or man-caused absence of nutrients, natural disasters or human impact like deserts, cliffs, beaches, burnt and deforested areas.


Examples for the barren land areas in the forest where due to excessive clearcutting the vegetation is removed. The most evident examples are in Amazonian rainforest, but also forest in Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, etc. Forests are also influenced by fires. In example of contaminated sites, locations of barren areas are usually in industrial zones of a city.


landcover=barren is proposed in order to support mapping of bareland areas by means of visual interpretation of satellite imagery. The visual interpretation is especially convenient for mapping larger areas, like it is the interest here (deforestation of Amazon rainforest which has area of 5,500,000 km2). The existing tags as natural=bare_rock and natural=sand do not describe barren land that is a result of deforestation in the first place, and also they might be too specific to be recognized from satellite imagery. Observing if areas are vegetated or not might be much easier.

Applies to

Area, Relation


Light brown area

Features/Pages affected


Please comment on the discussion page.


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  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. Deforested land is usually dedicated to other uses such as farming or agriculture. Land that's left without immediate use for other purposes will quickly be overgrown by grass, shrubs and other conquering species and thus no longer be barren -- that process starts after only a few days even here in Central Europe. The kind of mapping you suggest sounds more like a thematic map featuring short-term changes in the landscape, rather than a long-term map as OSM should be understood. --Grimpeur78 (talk) 10:05, 24 April 2019 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. I understand the proposal is purely about landcover, not landuse. --Peter Elderson (talk) 10:37, 24 April 2019 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. As I mentioned on the talk page, "At OSM we want to map specific features that are real and current and that individual mappers can verify on the ground or with good quality aerial imagery. Landcover=barren does not meet these standards. It's a mix of several different features that already have established tags: natural=sand, natural=beach, Tag:natural=scree, natural=shingle, natural=mud, natural=glacier and natural=scrub. In most tropical regions, if a patch of forested land has been recently cut or burned, it will quickly regrow into the previous vegetation type." --Jeisenbe (talk) 14:23, 24 April 2019 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. There are several problems here. For start, name is mismatching definition, why "barren" would include just "Soil area without vegetation" and exclude rocks, sand etc. Also, "soil without vegetation" is extremely temporary. Either it gets overgrown or eroded away. Proposal claims "it might last couple of years" but it is highly surprising to me that it would take so long for grass/herbs to start growing - can I get some link to research confirming this? In my experience in Europe plants start growing in soil within days/weeks, and I would expect it to take years only in areas that are dry (and would not be deforested due to lack of forests). There are also several other problems, some of them mentioned above and some will be probably mentioned below. Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 15:31, 24 April 2019 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. This would not map what is there, but what is not there i.e. trees. Map the presence of trees and the deforestation, which is what the proposer wants, can be obtained from the changed areas over time. Warin61 (talk) 22:02, 24 April 2019 (UTC)