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Land Cover and Land Use SIG

Land cover and land use are fundamental underpinning information layers for a broad range of terrestrial environmental applications from local to global scales. They are important to conservation, impact assessment, spatial planning to climate modelling. From the beginning of remote sensing, the classification of the Earth’s surface into these types of information, either by photo interpretation or digital analysis, has been an important use of the technology.


Land cover and  land use are two is distinct terms that are often being used interchangeably. Land cover is the physical material at the surface of the Earth, e.g.  grassland, concrete, woodland, crops, bare ground, water, etc. Land use is a description of how the land is utilised, its function or socio-economic activity, e.g. urban, agricultural, industrial, recreation. Any landscape feature may be made up of multiple and alternate land covers and land uses, the specification of which may have a political or social dimension. This has resulted in a wide range and land cover, land use and combined definitions and nomenclatures.

As well as the complexities in defining land cover and land use there are also a plethora of approaches to the conversion of remotely sensed images into thematic information products. These range from visual interpretation where the skills and experience of a human are used to identify the land cover and land use classes to advanced statistical and rule-based algorithms. These approaches can be applied at the level of the image pixel or within objects made up of groups of pixels or defined by external cartographic datasets. The generation of sufficient thematic detail may require the use of more than one image or the integration of non-remote sensing datasets.

SIG Activities

The field of land cover and land use mapping is highly diverse with plenty of unsolved questions, uncertainties and areas for research and development. This SIG is aimed at addressing these issues for a broad range of stakeholders and practitioners involved in the production and use of land cover and land use mapping. It hopes to both promote this application of remote sensing and to developed the skills and experience of those involved in land cover and land use mapping at any level.

Previous meetings

RSPSoc Land Cover Land Use SIG / University of Leicester / EAGLE Group
Land Cover Workshop - 25 - 26 June 2014 Programme and Map
Centre for Landscape and Climate Research, University of Leicester, UK

Access to the presentations from the Land Cover Workshop are available at:


Object-Based Landscape Analysis, 7-8 April 2009, University of Nottingham, UK



Geoff Smith This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2011. Remote Sensing & Photogrammetry Society
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