EU Science Hub

Global Human Settlement Layer

The Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) is a framework to produce global spatial information on population and on the physical size of settlements on the planet.

The GHSL processes large volumes of heterogeneous data including global and continental satellite image archives, fine-scale satellite imagery, census data, and volunteered geographic information. The data are processed automatically using evidence-based analytics and knowledge generated from spatial data mining technologies. The information generated aims to be an objective and systematically account of the presence of population and built-up infrastructure on the Earth's surface.

The information is used to modelling a number of processes including:

  • human and physical exposure to natural hazards and conflicts
  • impact of human activities on ecosystems
  • access to resources and connectivity of settlements

The global spatial information layers produced at the JRC are used as evidence-based analytical knowledge to support the implementation of the EU regional urban policy as well as that of the four post-2015 international frameworks, that include Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Sustainable Development Goals, Climate Change Agreements and the Global Urban Agenda.

The GHSL supports international scientific partnerships facilitating science-policy interface in the frame of the Group of Earth Observation (GI-21: Human Planet Initiative). It also supports bilateral scientific collaborations with space agencies and scientific organisations of Brazil, China and South Africa.

Mapping human presence on Earth Infographic

Infographic: Mapping human presence on Earth - The Global Human Settlements Layer (GHSL)
Infographic: Mapping human presence on Earth - The Global Human Settlements Layer (GHSL)

©EU, 2016

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/jrc/en/file/document/169981jrc-ghsl-infographics-key_messages.pdf