Overview - Land cover/use statistics

Land cover / use statistics – Overview


LUCAS photo © European Union

LUCAS: what is it?

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 the European Union in:

  • land use
    meaning the socioeconomic use of land (for instance, agriculture, forestry, recreation or residential use).
  • land cover:
    for instance crops, grass, broad-leaved forest, or built-up area.

The latest published LUCAS survey dates from 2018. It provides observations at more than 330 000 points surveyed in the EU Member States.

The next, LUCAS 2022 survey will take place in March-September 2022.

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 main 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 land cover/use statistics derived from the LUCAS survey are unique as they are fully standardised to use the same definitions and methodology.

Why are land cover/use statistics collected?

Data on land cover/use status and changes provide territorial information that is useful in analysing how agriculture, the environment and the countryside affect each other. They are notably 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.

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