Land Cover Map - field reconnaissance completed and analysis underway

February 2008

The team behind the Land Cover Map (LCM), which forms one of the two main strands of Countryside Survey, has successfully completed its fieldwork and is now pressing on with data processing and analysis. The resulting dataset will be a world-leading product showing the stock and distribution of land cover and Broad Habitats* across the UK at a ‘field-by-field’ scale (features larger than 0.5 ha, or 50m square).

Fieldwork for the new LCM was successfully undertaken in 2006 and 2007 – in spite of unexpected challenges, such as flooding and outbreaks of both foot and mouth disease and bluetongue.

Fieldwork involved recording over 60,000 data points and 1,800 photographs across the UK. Fifteen field trips (each staffed by 3-person teams from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) covered roughly 9000 miles in total, visiting every UK landscape type – ranging from Welsh mountains and remote Scottish islands, to the loughs of Northern Ireland and the English coastline.

LCM survey teams used cutting-edge digital data capture technology, including tablet PCs and GPS receivers, to record data in the field against the corresponding satellite images. All of the software used was developed in-house by the LCM team, to meet the exact requirements of the reconnaissance survey.

Dr Geoff Smith, leader of the LCM team says: “We are now analysing and processing all of the information from a range of sources to produce a new LCM for the 2007 Survey. This includes integrating Earth Observation data [ie. satellite imagery] with digital cartography and other ancillary information, including for the first time Ordnance Survey MasterMap®. After the success of the reconnaissance survey it is now our intention to develop the LCM digital data capture system as a rapid survey tool for surveyors in other environmental fields.”

Early trials to extend the use of the digital data capture system, surveying woodland to estimate the quality of habitat for birds, have given very promising results.