User:Rudolf/draft landcover woodland

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There are major differences in the way Openstreetmap users are tagging woodland. The usage of these tags has become the subject of much debate due to inconsistent application, and wooly term usage.

As long as new mappers join Openstreetmap these discussions will never end, except we find a distinct definition.

Different forms of tagging

When tagging woodland, three approaches are advocated by different groups of mappers.

Approach 1

  • natural=wood is used to mark all areas covered by trees.
  • landuse=forest is used to mark areas of land managed for forestry.
  • woodland=virgin is used to mark areas of virgin woodland unmanaged by man.

Approach 2

  • landuse=forest is used for maintained or managed woodland. This approach views most woodland as managed or maintained especially in areas such as Europe.
  • natural=wood is used for ancient or virgin woodland, with no forestry use.

Approach 3

  • wood=* is used to mark the presence or absence of trees.
  • natural=wood is used to mark areas of unmanaged forest. It implies wood=yes
  • landuse=forest is used to mark areas of managed forest. It implies wood=yes

Discussion of each approach

  • Approach 1
    • Tags appear consistent – having trees on is not a "land use".
    • Allows for woods to be marked in areas where other landuses exist (e.g. areas of trees in the middle of a quarry)
    • Does not require the tagger to make a distinction between managed and virgin woodland, which can be near impossible to make even for someone surveying the area.
    • Allows for tagging of areas of commercial forestry which are not currently wooded (landuse=forest + natural=scrub).
    • Is more consistent with tagging of other features such as reservoirs, which are tagged natural=water, along with their land use.
    • For "landuse=forest" doubletagging is unavoidable.
  • Approach 2
    • More commonly used after a bot was used to retag existing woodland this way.
    • Doubletagging "natural=wood"+"landuse=forest" must be avoided.
  • Approach 3
    • As for Approach 1
    • Uses only existing tags.
    • Existing tagging largely retains its meaning.


  • There exist no distinct mapping scheme.
  • A clear distinction between managed and virgin woodland is all but impossible!
  • Some mapper do doubletagging, others delete every doubletagging.
  • We have different schemes in different countries.
  • Some user changes the wiki-definition of woodland, others reverts the editing.
  • This will be a never ending process, until a clear decision is made.

Definitions in the Oxford dictionary

forest = "A large area covered chiefly with trees and undergrowth."

wood =

  1. "The hard fibrous material that forms the main substance of the trunk or branches of a tree or shrub, used for fuel or timber."
  2. "(also woods) An area of land, smaller than a forest, that is covered with growing trees."

woodland = "Land covered with trees."


landcover=woodland describes an area covered with trees.

Additional tags


Instead of various tagging schemes, we need a distinct scheme. It is advantageous to use a new tag, to avoid confusion with changing values of an already used key.

You can use one simple tag landcover=woodland to identicate every aera covered with trees and you are done.

This tag avoids any confusion with existing values "forest" or "wood".

Everyone can add additonal information, using some sub-keys.

The tag landuse=forest will be used for woodland plantation only, intended to timber production. No more tagging for natural woodlands, where every now and then the ways may be cleaned or some other infrequently tending may occur.

The tag natural=wood will be deprecated.

The tag landcover=trees describes a landcover classifier of LCCS. This is not a landcover class. Furthermore trees=* is already in use to describe the kind of trees in landuse=orchard.

Features/Pages affected

  • natural=wood - Will be deprecated!
  • landuse=forest - Will be used for woodland plantation only, intended to timber production.

See also