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Tutorial on the UN Land Cover Classification System

In the frame of the 2nd Workshop of the EARSeL Special Interest Group on Land Use & Land Cover (28-30 September 2006 in Bonn, Germany) the GOFC-GOLD LC Project Office held a tutorial on the UN Land Cover Classification System (LCCS).

The tutorial was organised and prepared by Martin Herold (GOFC/GOLD) and Antonio di Gregorio (FAO/GLCN)


Several global and regional datasets have been derived in response to the need for information about land cover and land cover dynamics. Their development was driven by different national or international initiatives; the subsequent mapping standards adopted reflect the varied interests, requirements and methodologies of the originating programs. Although efforts in harmonization and validation are mentioned in nearly all related mapping projects as well as in many other circumstances, there is only limited compatibility and comparability between these different maps and their thematic legends - they basically exist as independent datasets. This hinders their use, especially considering the original purpose of some these datasets to serve a large number of applications and the problems of insufficient validation become particularly apparent in effort to analyze land cover changes.

In that context, improved harmonization and validation of land cover datasets is endorsed in several international conventions and initiatives. Organizations in the related implementation efforts are GOFC-GOLD (Global Observations of Forest Cover-Global Observation of Land Dynamics); a technical panel of the Global Terrestrial Observation Strategy – GTOS). It brings together key participants and stake-holders involved in global and regional land cover observations. The objective is to provide a platform for presentation and discussions on current and planned activities including developments on the political programs, international strategic frameworks as well as related implementation initiatives.


The basis for a harmonization strategy is the UN Land Cover Classification System (LCCS). GOFC-GOLD and GTOS recommend LCCS to Space Agencies other actors involved in land cover mapping as a standard for land cover legend generation, translation and as exploratory tool for comparing and contrasting different legends. There are ongoing case studies on land cover legend translations to evaluate the harmonization resources and provide better understanding on how to approach the diversity of existing land cover definitions. Although understanding of semantic heterogeneities in existing land cover datasets is important, true harmonization has its most impact in the development phase of land cover datasets; hence influence operational land cover data collection is essential. Mapping projects are encouraged to profit from resources and harmonization experiences, especially in terms of identified problems and inconsistencies in existing legends.

In conjunction with UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the UN Global Land Cover Network (GLCN), the LCCS tutorial will provide an introduction to the UN Land Cover Classification System (LCCS 2 and 3) as common land cover language and legend translator. Needs and concepts for land cover harmonization and standardized mapping are discussed to provide guidance for mapping projects in land cover observations and legend development/translation. The tutorial will provide room for discussion and is followed by a session presenting important regional and global land cover mapping projects and programs.

Date & Time
Friday, 9 September 2006, 8.45-10.00 a.m.

Universitätsclub, Konventstraße 9, Bonn

Further information on the conference locations and the entire program can be found in the Workshop Program.

Presentations & Material
Introduction to LCCS (Powerpoint presentation, 1,5 MB)

For further information about the tutorial contact Martin Herold.