Current mapping is via European CORINE land cover map series (available since 1990)
CORINE provides a time series of land cover data (latest data 2018)
Coarse (25ha) spatial resolution
Ireland has fragmented landscape and important environmental features such as hedgerows and semi-
natural grasslands are missed at this scale
It has a standard set of land cover classes for all of Europe which means important Irish land cover classes are poorly mapped
For example, raised bog, upland blanket bogs, lowland blanket bogs, cutover bogs, eroding bogs, flushes and fens are classed just as peatland in CORINE
Accurate and detailed land cover information is required to plan for future land use
– where are the best places to plan for new urban developments?
-which areas are most vulnerable to erosion or flooding?
-what areas are most suited to forestry or new crops as both the climate and agricultural systems change?
Progress towards an Irish high-resolution dataset
The National Land Cover and Habitat Mapping (NLCHM) Working Group
Recognising these limitations, EPA, NPWS, Teagasc, OSi, Heritage Council and DAFM set up a
national land cover and habitats working group in 2011 to identify a way to produce a higher quality
national land cover dataset for Ireland.
After several years of investigating technical solutions including pilot programmes, funding research and stakeholder consultation events, the OSi and the EPA began working in partnership on delivering the project in 2018.
The project is steered by the wider land cover working group which is chaired by the NPWS. The aim is to deliver a new land cover dataset for Ireland by the end of 2020.
Figure 1 shows an example of this dataset, where the parcel boundaries are highlighted in red. The
land cover programme uses spatial analysis of Earth Observation (EO) data to sub-divide and classify
these parcels into their respective land cover sub-components.
For example, while the National Map gives the property boundary of a field parcel, the land cover dataset will map all internal land cover features present such as hedgerows, scrub, grass type, etc. (the white delineations and labelling in figure 1).
As well as using the National Map dataset, the project will utilise existing spatial datasets on forestry
and agricultural land use data from Coillte and DAFM, respectively, habitat data from NPWS, local
authorities and the National Biodiversity Data Centre and sub-soils data from Teagasc (figure 2).
These data are all used to inform the image-based classification process. The EO imagery that forms the central part of the analysis includes OSi’s high resolution 25 cm 4-band Colour-infrared aerial
photography and a 1 m digital surface model from the OSi and 10 m satellite imagery from the ESA
Sentinel 2 satellite, available freely through the Copernicus programme. The reference year for the
project is 2018.
When complete, the data will represent a revolution in land cover mapping for Ireland. With a
spatial resolution almost 250 times better than CORINE, combined with the much more detailed and
nationally appropriate classification system, not only will it support land management, but it will also
support reporting of emissions and removals of greenhouse gases for land use, land use change and
The accurate classification of the extent of hedgerows will allow more accurate calculation of grassland and cropland areas as well as providing information on biodiversity, ecosystem services and sustainable agriculture practises. With regular updates of the maps capturing land use changes, it will be possible for the first time to make much more accurate calculations of emissions and removals of greenhouse gases for every land cover unit across the country, thereby aiding better decision making in regard to climate action.
Figure 1. Example of the National Map dataset showing field boundaries (in red) in an agricultural
landscape and the national land cover dataset, mapping land cover units (in white)
Figure 2. Some of the main data sources used in the production of the new land cover maps. The
new classification system is compatible with the European Environment Agency’s EAGLE
classification model, thus ensuring compatibility with European land cover and land use reporting
Production of the Land Cover Map is scheduled to complete by end Q1 2022 with publication to
follow in 2022.
Application of Open Data Directive
Is this project a High Value Dataset for inclusion under the Open Data Directive ?