Overview Overview

Land cover/use statistics

Land can be divided into 2 interlinked concepts:

  • Land cover refers to the coverage of land (e.g. crops, grass, broad-leaved forest, or built-up area),
  • Land use indicates the socioeconomic use of land (e.g. agriculture, forestry, recreation or residential use).

LUCAS survey

LUCAS stands for the Land Use and Coverage Area frame Survey. EUROSTAT has carried out this survey every 3 years since 2006 to identify changes in land use and cover in the European Union. LUCAS surveys are carried out in situ; this means that observations are made and registered in the field all over the EU. The latest published LUCAS survey dates from 2012 and covers all the then 27 EU countries and observations at more than 270 000 points.

Eurostat carried out the latest LUCAS survey between March and October 2015. Surveyors from 28 Member States visited a total of 273 401 points.

How do the surveys work?

Surveyors examine land cover and land use, irrigation management and structural elements in the landscape. The points at which measurements are taken can fall on all land cover types (cropland, grassland, forest, built-up areas, transport networks, etc.). A 500 gram topsoil sample is taken at one out of 10 points. The sample is analysed in a laboratory and used to:

  • assess environmental factors
  • update European soil maps
  • validate soil models
  • measure the quantity of organic carbon in the soil.

The surveyors have clear instructions to map and photograph the selected point with a minimum of disturbance and not to cause damage of any kind.

Eurostat asks all landowners, agricultural businesses and responsible authorities for cooperation, especially for access to the land and permission to take soil samples where necessary.

What information is collected?

Three types of information are obtained from LUCAS surveys:

  • Micro-data: land cover, land use and environmental parameters associated with the individual points surveyed
  • Point and landscape photos in the 4 cardinal directions
  • Statistical tables with aggregated results by land cover and land use at geographical level. These estimates are based on weighted point data.

The information collected is used only to produce statistics at European level. Eurostat does not keep any personal information or land property data. The LUCAS survey data are not used to check agricultural subsidies.

The micro-data and photos for LUCAS 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2015 can be accessed here.

Examples of data use

Data and information on land cover/use status and changes are widely used for:

  • nature protection
  • forest and water management
  • urban and transport planning
  • agricultural policy
  • prevention and mitigation of natural hazards
  • soil protection and mapping
  • monitoring climate change
  • monitoring biodiversity, etc.

Land cover/use data also form the basis for spatial and territorial analyses, which are crucial for policy planning.