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Land Cover Surveys

Land cover describes the principal features and characteristics of the countryside. Data on land cover, both in map and statistical format, is essential to assess the stock and distribution of landscape features as well as the determination of change within the countryside. In Scotland, there are currently three basic sources of land cover data.

The ITE Countryside Surveys, 1978, 1984, 1990, 2000 (ITE now Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)

The Land Cover of Scotland, 1988. Summary Statistics Reports for the 32 Authorities (word documents of about 3.5 Mb each) is  available: One page version.

The Scottish Natural Heritage Countryside Monitoring Scheme (LCS88) Different systems rely on different methodologies:

Methodology Systematic stratified sample of 192 x 1km squares, with stratification based on ITE land classes National census Stratified random, area-based sampling design
Data Collection Field survey Aerial photographs Aerial photographs
Mapping scale 1:10 000 1:24 000 1:10 000 to 1:32 000
Classification Flexible: combination of 100 primary and 150 secondary classes
  • 127 cover types
  • 1300 mosaics
  • 32 aerial cover types
  • 5 linear features
Mapping Units
  • Areas: > 0.04ha
  • Linear:
  • Features: >20m length
  • Points: mapped as features in isolation
  • Areas:
  • > 4ha vegetation
  • > 5ha built land
  • > 2ha woodland
  • Linear:
  • Features:
  • >200m length
  • Points: 2ha
Minimum land parcel mapped is 0.1ha


Learning & Resources

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.