ⓘ Land cover is the physical material at the surface of the earth. Land covers include grass, asphalt, trees, bare ground, water, etc. Earth cover is the expressi ..

                                     

ⓘ Land cover

Land cover is the physical material at the surface of the earth. Land covers include grass, asphalt, trees, bare ground, water, etc. Earth cover is the expression used by ecologist Frederick Edward Clements that has its closest modern equivalent being vegetation. The expression continues to be used by the United States Bureau of Land Management.

There are two primary methods for capturing information on land cover: field survey and analysis of remotely sensed imagery. Land change models can be built from these types of data to assess future shifts in land cover

One of the major land cover issues as with all natural resource inventories is that every survey defines similarly named categories in different ways. For instance, there are many definitions of "forest" - sometimes within the same organisation - that may or may not incorporate a number of different forest features. Areas without trees may be classified as forest cover "if the intention is to re-plant" UK and Ireland, while areas with many trees may not be labelled as forest "if the trees are not growing fast enough" Norway and Finland.

                                     

1. Distinction from "land use"

"Land cover" is distinct from "land use", despite the two terms often being used interchangeably. Land use is a description of how people utilize the land and of socio-economic activity. Urban and agricultural land uses are two of the most commonly known land use classes. At any one point or place, there may be multiple and alternate land uses, the specification of which may have a political dimension. The origins of the "land cover/land use" couplet and the implications of their confusion are discussed in Fisher et al. 2005.