Thursday, October 21, 2021

The New Global Land Cover Map

Over half of the land in the UK is covered in grass. 17.34% of the UK is used for growing crops and  17.16% of the country is covered in trees. These land cover statistics for the UK come from a new European Space Agency (ESA) interactive map.

The ESA WorldCover Viewer map provides data on land cover at 10 m resolution across the whole world. The map uses different colors to show the type of land cover which can be found at any location on Earth. This includes 11 different classes of land cover, including tree cover, grassland, cropland and built-up land. The Statistics tab in the map menu allows you to explore the percentages of these different land cover types within individual countries (or in the case of the United States in individual states). For example in Texas only 11.99% of land is used for growing crops. In contrast 71.25% of Iowa is used as cropland.

ESA's global land cover data was derived from both Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellite imagery. This enables ESA not only to provide data at 10 m resolution but will also allow the map to be updated in the future in nearly real-time. This data is also open and free to use. You can download ESA's global land cover data on the ESA WorldCover Data page.


If you are interested in exploring land cover and land use further, particularly in urban settings, then you can also use the OSM Landuse Landcover interactive map. This map, developed by the GIScience Research Group of Heidelberg University, can also show you land use and land cover information for any location in the world. However this map uses OpenStreetMap data to map land use and show the percentage of different types of land use around the globe.

The OSM Landuse Landcover map uses contrasting colors to show how areas have been tagged in OpenStreetMap for land use and land cover. If you zoom in on a location on the map you can see how different areas have been tagged for land use and land cover. A dynamic pie chart also provides an overview of the percentages of different types of land-use in the current map view. Obviously the data on this map is only as accurate and complete as the data submitted to OpenStreetMap.

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