Launched in March 2023, the National Landcover Map provides an unprecedented level of detail about land cover in the Republic of Ireland. It can be used by all kinds of public and private sector organisations to gain a deeper understanding of the environment and the challenges posed by development, habitat loss and climate change.
The National Landcover Map offers:
Exceptional detail about landcover in Ireland The National Landcover Map has a resolution of at least 0.1 hectares, making it 250 times more detailed than CORINE, the pan-European landcover dataset
Over 10 million classified landcover features Developed using an innovative mapping methodology, machine learning, and remote sensing techniques, the map describes millions of landscape features
36 different land classifications The map features a set of landcover classifications designed specifically for Ireland to provide the best and most precise descriptions of landcover types commonly found across the country
Independently verified data The National Landcover Map was created using a comprehensive and independent validation process in which over 20,000 landcover samples were verified by seven external stakeholders.
Use the National Landcover Map to:
Better understand landcover throughout Ireland The National Landcover Map classifies natural vegetation, freshwater, and artificial surfaces across the whole of the Republic of Ireland, enabling users to gain a far deeper understanding of Ireland’s diverse environments
Make informed decisions This new resource can be used in a myriad of ways to help people make informed decisions and balance the needs of the environment with the requirements of industry, housing, infrastructure and leisure activities
Save time and money Those organisations that have previously developed their own landcover maps for specific sites or projects can now avoid this cost and save time by using the National Landcover Map instead
Collaborate more effectively with other organisations By using the National Landcover Map in place of internally-created resources, organisations can use the same, standard landcover classifications as their partners and share data more easily.
The National Landcover Map was produced by TÉ in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and with the support of members of the cross-governmental national landcover and habitat mapping (NLCHM) working group.
Ready to get started? The National Landcover Map is available to all organisations in Ireland. Government departments and public sector bodies can use the product at no additional cost, through the National Mapping Agreement. Commercial organisations can contact email@example.com for pricing information.
A new Land Cover Map is available for Ireland, it was released on 21 March 2023.
Figure 1: Outline of the new national land cover map for Ireland (NLC 2018)
The new National Land Cover Map was produced by the National Mapping Division of Tailte Éireann (formerly Ordnance Survey of Ireland) in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The aim of a land cover map is to map what is physically present on the Earth’s surface, for example forests, grasslands, and artificial areas. This Land Cover Map was produced based on 2018 data and is known as NLC 2018. The map includes very detailed information on land cover types in Ireland and marks a significant improvement in land evidence. It will have many uses in environmental assessments on water, climate, air, noise, and biodiversity and will be an important resource into the future.
NLC 2018 is available from the Tailte Éireann, for further information please visit the Tailte Éireann website to link with the official Tailte Éireann Land Cover Map web page.
In addition to the data a National Land Cover Map 2018 – Final Report is also available. It provides details on how NLC 2018 was produced, the accuracy of the data and an initial assessment on how it changes our understanding of land cover statistics in Ireland. Below we provide more information on NLC 2018 summarising much of the information from the Final Report.
What is land cover?
To understand land cover better a useful explanation is that it refers to what is physically present on the Earth’s surface. This includes surfaces like natural vegetation, freshwater and non-living surfaces. Grasslands, forest areas and artificial surfaces, are all examples of land cover types.
It is important to note that land cover is different from land use. Land use specifically refers to how that land is used or the activity at that location. Uses can be environmental, economic, or social and are usually a result of human intervention or management. Figure 2 below aims to conceptually highlight the differences between land cover and land use.
Figure 2: Understanding the difference between land cover and land use (Source EPA)
Understanding the types of land cover in Ireland
In creating the National Land Cover Map, it was important to define all land cover types that can be mapped from the data available in Ireland. To achieve this, the EPA and Tailte Éireann both engaged with experts from across the land sector, while also looking at existing international standards, to help define a Land Cover Classification System for Ireland.
The Land Cover Classification System contains two levels of classification with 8 classes at Level 1, and 36 classes at Level 2. The Level 2 classes were used to produce NLC 2018 and can be aggregated into Level 1 classes. Table 1 provides an overview of the Land Cover Classification System for Ireland which will soon be officially published by the EPA.
Table 1: The National Land Cover Classification System for Ireland
How was the map developed?
With a National Land Cover Classification System providing the clarity on what needs to be mapped, a production methodology was developed by the EPA and Tailte Éireann to allow the map to be produced.
This was achieved using earth observation and machine learning technologies to analyse a combination of Tailte Éireann aerial imagery, existing national datasets and Sentinel 2 satellite imagery from the Copernicus Space Programme funded by the European Commission.
Highly trained expert operators actively managed these models using iterative processes and checks to ensure the accuracy of the data being produced. Each land cover class was mapped at a minimum mapping unit of less than 0.1-hectare, i.e., the data resolution. This is over 250 time more detailed than CORINE 2018, produced at a 25-hectare resolution, and previously the most commonly used land cover dataset prior to NLC 2018.
Further details of how the map was developed are available at the Tailte Éireann website.
National land cover 2018 mapping examples
The level of detail available within NLC 2018 is a significant improvement on previous data. To get a better understanding of this Figures 4 & 5 highlight the differences between NLC 2018 and CORINE 2018.
Figure 4: Shows the detail now available in the National Land Cover Map (NLC 2018) for Johnstown Castle Estate, EPA Headquarter, Co. Wexford
Figure 5: Shows the reduced detail of the CORINE 2018 data for Johnstown Castle Estate, EPA Headquarter, Co. Wexford.
Although there is less detail in CORINE data it provides a time series of information with data produced for 1990, 2000, 2006, 2012 and 2018. This provides important information as an indicator on how land cover has changed over time in Ireland. CORINE will also be produced into the future under the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service to preserve this valuable function.
Defining the accuracy of National land cover 2018
Greater detail in land cover mapping is welcome and will help develop a better understanding of our environment. However, all maps contain errors meaning it is important to define the accuracy of the data and understand the limitations that exist within the data.
In producing NLC 2018, a very comprehensive independent validation programme was established. This included assessment of over 22,000 data samples evenly distributed across all land cover classes. Samples were assessed, by independent stakeholders, for both class accuracy and geometric accuracy.
Once completed the samples were assessed by the EPA and CSO. The results of this assessment show that NLC 2018 has a high level of accuracy at both the Level 1 and 2 land cover classes. Overall accuracy, where all classes are combined into a single mean accuracy, shows that the data has a thematic accuracy (i.e., class accuracy) of 78.5% and 88.7%, at Level 2 and Level 1 respectively, while the geometric accuracy (i.e., area outline) is 87.2% – the same geometries apply to both classification levels.
The validation data has also been assessed at each individual class, meaning users can identify and take account of the performance of each class within NLC 2018. Charts 1 & 2 highlights the varying performance of Level 2 classes in terms of their thematic and geometric accuracy. From this we can see that there are many classes that perform very well with accuracies >80% and a few classes that perform less well with scores closer to 60% thematic accuracy. In general, most classes perform very well in terms of geometric accuracy.
Chart 1: Thematic accuracy for Land Cover Level 2 Classes
Chart 2: Geometric accuracy for Land Cover Level 2 Classes
Further details on the validation programme and the assessment of the accuracy of the map are available at the Tailte Éireann website.
The EPA will also be publishing a more in-depth analysis of the accuracy assessment results in 2023.
How does National land cover 2018 change our understanding of land cover in Ireland?
With the significant change in the detail of the land cover data, now available in NLC 2018, our understanding of national statistics in land cover are also changing. The Final Report for NLC 2018 provides an initial assessment of the national statistics for land cover based on this new data, below are a summary of these findings.
When comparing the NLC 2018 and CORINE 2018 data at Level 1, as shown in Chart 3, it highlights that Grassland and Peatlands were overestimated in CLC 2018, while Forest Areas, Cultivated Land, Health and Bracken, and Artificial Surfaces were underestimated.
Chart 3: Comparison of percentage national area at Level 1 class groupings for NLC 2018 and CORINE 2018.
A lot of the changes identified are as a result of the differences in the resolution of the data. CORINE 2018 has a low resolution of 25-hectares meaning that many smaller land cover classes are generalised into the dominant classes. Small features like hedgerows, ponds, houses etc. are often merged into dominant classes like grasslands in Ireland. In NLC 2018 the data resolution is much more detailed meaning these small features are mapped, this increases the representation of these classes and decreases the percentage area of dominant land cover classes. In summary NLC 2018 is more representative of all land cover classes in Ireland.
Although these dominant classes are lower in area than previously calculated, they are still the most common classes in Ireland. Chart 4 provides an overview of the percentage of national area that each NLC 2018 Level 2 class represents, please note these are draft figures at this stage.
Chart 4: Overview of the percentage of national area that each NLC 2018 Level 2 class represents
Chart 4 shows that by a large margin, Improved Grassland is the single most dominant land cover type in Ireland. It covers 2.93 million hectares or 41.53% of the total national area. It is the only class that exceeds 10% of the national area with the second most widespread class being Wet Grassland at 9.47%. These two grassland classes together account for over 50% of the national area.
Cultivated Land is the third most dominant land cover type in Ireland 6.05%, the map also shows it has a strong regional concentration in the East and Southeast. Transitional and Coniferous forest lands, both associated with plantation forestry account for 5.46% and 3.63% of the national area respectively. Blanket Bog and Wet Heath occupy 3.54% and 3.25% of the national area respectively.
The first national scale mapping of hedgerows in Ireland show that they cover 224,787 ha or 3.18% of the total national area.
All other classes are below 3% of the national area with full national-scale mapping achieved for the first time for many other land cover classes including Dry Heath (2.82%), Broadleaved Forest and Woodland (2.42%), Scrub (1.84%), Amenity Grassland (1.82%), Cutover Bog (1.56%) and Raised Bog (0.66%).
The EPA and National Mapping Division of Tailte Éireann would like to thank the considerable support that was provided by key stakeholders throughout the project, in particular the following organisations:
Request for public access to the National Landcover Map under the Open Data Directive
Tailte Éireann Refusal
To provide context:
Ordnance Survey Ireland is now the National Mapping Division of Tailte Éireann.
The Tailte Éireann Act 2022 provided for the dissolution of the Property Registration Authority and Ordnance Survey Ireland and the transfer of the functions of those bodies, along with the functions of the Commissioner of Valuation and the Boundary Surveyor, to Tailte Éireann.
The dissolution and transfer took effect on 1st March 2023.
Concerning the request for public access to the National Landcover Map:
On December 21, 2022, the EU Commission issued Implementing Regulation 2023/138, which sets out the arrangements for publication and re-use of specific high-value datasets.
The regulation was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on January 20, 2023, and came into effect on February 9, 2023.
It will be applicable from June 9, 2024, 16 months after its entry into force.
Land cover is identified as a high-value dataset in Section 2.1 of the Annex to Regulation 2023/138. Including the most recent and historical datasets available at all levels of generalization up to a scale of 1:5,000, covering the entire Member State.
According to ANNEX II to the INSPIRE Directive land cover refers to the physical and biological cover of the earth’s surface, such as artificial surfaces, agricultural areas, forests, (semi-) natural areas, wetlands, and water bodies.
The datasets shall be available for re-use under the conditions of the Creative Commons BY 4.0 license or any equivalent or less restrictive open licence, in an internationally recognised open, machine-readable format, through APIs and bulk downloads, with metadata that describes the data in accordance with the INSPIRE data themes set at least including the metadata elements outlined in Regulation (EC) No 1205/2008 Annex.
At this time, we cannot provide a specific timeline for the release of the land cover data other than to say that as per Regulation 2023/138, the National Mapping Division of Tailte Eireann shall make land cover data available in accordance with the requirements for publication and re-use set out in Implementing Regulation 2023/138.
To expand on the timeline:
The implementing regulation also designates other National Mapping Division high-value data, such as administrative units and geographic names (open already), buildings, hydrography, elevation, orthoimagery, production and industrial facilities, water, and transport networks.
To achieve compliance with the regulation, it is essential to have robust systems and processes in place that generate high-quality, compliant data consistently. This requires a comprehensive and methodical approach that involves identifying the necessary data elements, including metadata, defining the data collection and management protocols, and implementing appropriate quality control measures.
By developing and implementing robust systems and processes, we can ensure that the land cover data, and other high-value data, are consistently generated in a compliant manner. This, in turn, will enhance their usability, accuracy, and reliability, and promote their wider adoption and utilisation across various domains and applications.
This request has been refused on the following grounds that Implementing Regulation 2023/138 identifying land cover data as high value data is only applicable from June 9, 2024.
You may appeal against the refusal, and your appeal should be sent in a legible form to the Office of the Information Commissioner. The appeal must be made (a) not later than 4 weeks after this notification or (b) where the Information Commissioner is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for extending that period, not later than the expiration of an additional period of such length as he or she may determine.
Open Data Officier
National Mapping Division, Tailte Éireann
Páirc An Fhionnuisce, Baile Átha Cliath 8, D08 F6E4
As a strong supporter of the Open Data Directive, OSi is committed to its implementation. OSi currently publishes 122 datasets, and it provides access to many other open datasets through its GeoHive platform (https://www.geohive.ie/ ), which is the state’s geospatial data hub.
As part of OSi’s compliance with EU Commission Implementing Regulation 2023/138 of 21st December 2022, which specifies a list of specific high-value datasets and their publication and reuse arrangements, OSi is making arrangements to comply with the Regulation.
Regulation 2023/138 was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on the 20th January 2023. It entered into force on the 9th February 2023 and it shall apply from 16 months after entry into force (June 2024).
OSi has been a leader in publishing open data, from Ireland’s COVID Data Hub and recently launched the Regional Development Monitor, both of which are hosted on OSi’s GeoHive platform.
I. Summary of Decision
I have now made a final decision to part-grant your request on 17th February 2023. OSi have addressed the points of your request (numbered 1-2 and 4-9) at Part III below. Query number 3 of your request is addressed in the attached documents named Records 1 and 2. Record 1 (attached to this decision letter) is part-granted. There are 3 redactions within this record by reason of Article 8(a)(i).
Record 2 (attached to this decision letter) is fully granted. I wish to point out that OSi does not have the initial communication from the Open Data Unit in Department of Public Expenditure & Reform requesting that OSi provide Open Data Report, but we have provided a later version (reminder) of this request, herewith at Record 2. Record 2 helps provide context to Record 1, i.e. Record 2 sets out a list of questions by the Open Data Unit in Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and Record 1 sets out OSi’s answers to said questions
III. OSi responses to AIE Request queries;
1. Any data audits conducted by or for OSi to identify datasets under the Open Data Directive
The Open Data Directive mentions national and local maps, geospatial data, earth observation data, and mobility data. In accordance with the recent Open Data Directive Implementing Regulation, OSi now has direction on which data sets should be released as high-value datasets.
According to Regulation 2023/138, published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 20th January, 2023, OSi now has clear guidelines on which data is considered high value.
As a result of this clarity, data that needs to be released can now be accessed in greater detail. Regulation entered into force on the 9th February 2023 and it shall apply from 16 months after entry into force (June 2024).
Since all OSi geospatial data is actively managed in product management processes and applications, that is how OSi has identified data that can be made publicly accessible so far.
2. Directive 2019/1024/EU introduces the concept of high value datasets (HVDs). Please list any HVDs identified by OSi
The following OSi datasets have been identified as being of high value: 1. Administrative units 2. Geographic names 3. Buildings 4. Hydrography 5. Elevation 6. Land cover 7. Orthoimagery 8. Production and industrial facilities 9. Water 10. Transport networks
3. Under Regulation 4 of SI 376/2021 all Departments/Offices and relevant bodies under their aegis are obliged to supply to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform with information as requested from time to time, such as open data progress reports. Provide copies of the OSi progress reports as supplied to PER.
Please see Records 1 and 2 enclosed with this decision letter for only OSi Progress Report supplied to Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
4. All Departments/Offices and relevant bodies under their aegis must assign responsibility to an officer for matters arising under these Regulations in line with the national Open Data Strategy. Please provide contacts for any Open Data officers appointed at OSi from 2021 to date
The Open Data Officer is Hugh Mangan. Queries relating to open data are directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org This email is set up as a distribution list which gets sent to a number of OSi employees.
5. In line with Regulation 13 of SI 376/2021, the details of any new exclusive arrangements being entered into must be published online at least two months before they come into force. Please provide list of any exclusive arrangements agreed to date by OSi
OSi has no exclusive arrangements in place.
6. Any exemptions sought by OSi to the release of open data, and which datasets these exemptions related to
OSi has not sought any exemptions.
7. Public Bodies must draft an Open Data Publication Plan. Provide a copy of any OSi draft or completed open data plans to date
Article 7(5) of the AIE Regulations states; 7(5) Where a request is made to a public authority and the information requested is not held by or for the authority concerned, that authority shall inform the applicant as soon as possible that the information is not held by or for it.
OSi does not have an Open Data Publication Plan. As OSi required clarity on the details of the implementing Regulation concerning High Value Data, it has not yet published an Open Data Plan.
The EU Commission has now published the Implementing Regulation on High Value Data (20th January 2023).
There are 10 different OSi data types covered by the High Value Implementing Regulation, which will result in the release of a great deal more individual OSi datasets.
A total of 122 datasets are currently available on OSi’s open data portal, which are then federated to https://data.gov.ie/
It must be noted that on 1st March 2023, OSi will merge with the Property Registration Authority and the Valuation Office to create Tailte Éireann, a new state agency. As a new entity, Tailte Éireann will publish its own Open Data Publication Plan, inheriting OSi’s geospatial data.
8. All public bodies need to publish details of what data is available for re-use and the licencing conditions that apply (CC BY 4.0 Attribution advised). Please provide a list of (where this differs from data audit list, see above)
9. Copy of OSi’s RPSI Policy (RPSI is Reuse of Public Sector Information) Article 7(5) of the AIE Regulations states; 7(5) Where a request is made to a public authority and the information requested is not held by or for the authority concerned, that authority shall inform the applicant as soon as possible that the information is not held by or for it.
OSi has no RPSI Policy (RPSI is Reuse of Public Sector Information).
The Programme for Government commits to a land use review to ensure that optimal land use options inform all relevant government decisions.
In 2022 DAFM and DECC commenced a Land Use Evidence review.
Phase 1 of the review is being managed by EPA and will assemble the evidence base to determine the environmental, ecological and economic characteristics of land types across Ireland, as outlined in the 2021 Climate Action Plan.
The Land Use Evidence Review work is assisted by a Land Use Evidence Forum.
Meeting notes from 19 May 2022.
Presentation from Coillte
Focus areas are to create new forests, optimise management of estate to maximise carbon storage, redesign areas of peatland forests.
Want to increase the biodiversity in forests.
Identified forest areas that have high ecological potential.
Plan to transition sensitive Freshwater Pearl Mussel areas to semi natural woodlands.
Need help with soil indicators
A test run of converting the draft landcover data for the southeast of Ireland into land use data was done to assess the main barriers to creating land use map(s) for Ireland
How is urban land being assessed, as it results in multiple pressures? EPA replied that in the EAGLE land use scheme the relevant land uses are residential, infrastructure and services. This means that in the indicator assessment the urban pressures might be repeated as they are being catalogued according to the land use types (so urban pressures will be catalogued against residential, infrastructure etc)
There is a task to workshop/review the draft land use class definitions with the land evidence forum
Publication of meeting notes to EPA website. Meeting notes for this group have been requested under FOI and AIE. To make this more efficient for the requesters the EPA will publish meeting notes to the EPA website until the land use evidence review phase 1 is complete. Would like a one-week turnaround for any comments/corrections on the meeting notes for timely publication.
New map will be much higher resolution than Corine landcover data. Tests of the new map, for Co. Wicklow, shows the possible extent of the differences between the two datasets.
Existing use cases that have tested draft sample areas of the landcover data to confirm its applicability include: • LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestry) reporting as part of EPA inventory and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions • FLARES research project being undertaken by UCC • DAFM Farm Environmental Survey pilot study • EPA illegal waste activities risk map
OSi aiming for a September 2022 release of the data
September documentation will be light, and will focus on giving data users the information they need to use the data
Post September more comprehensive documents are planned: o Documentation of the landcover classification o Documentation of the methodology o Documentation of the validation methods and results
OSi confirmed the landcover is part of the OSI established suite of products and they plan to maintain it into the future. OSI are considering what form the landcover product will take to meet user requirements.