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Land take

Indicator Specification Created 07 Oct 2004 Published 27 Apr 2005 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 06:59 PM
Note: new version is available!
Indicator codes: CSI 014

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)


Justification for indicator selection

Land use by urban and related infrastructures has the highest impacts on the environment due to sealing of soil as well as disturbances resulting from transport, noise, resource use, waste dumping and pollution. Transport networks, which connect cities, add to the fragmentation and degradation of the natural landscape. The intensity and patterns of urban sprawl are the result of three main factors: economic development, demand for housing and extension of transport networks. Although subsidiarity rules assign land and urban planning responsibilities to national and regional levels, most European policies have a direct or indirect effect on urban development.
Built-up area has been increasing steadily all over Europe for ten years, continuing the trend observed during the 1980s (EEA, 2002). The same is true for transport infrastructure, as a result of rising living standards, people living further from work, liberalisation of the EU internal market, globalisation of the economy, and more complex chains and networks of production. Increasing prosperity is increasing the demand for second homes. The growth in demand for land, both for building and for new transport infrastructure, is continuing.

Scientific references

Indicator definition

Increase in the amount of agriculture, forest and other semi-natural and natural land taken by urban and other artificial land development. It includes areas sealed by construction and urban infrastructure as well as urban green areas and sport and leisure facilities. The main drivers of land take are grouped in processes resulting in the extension of:

  • housing, services and recreation,
  • industrial and commercial sites,
  • transport networks & infrastructures
  • mines, quarries and waste dumpsites.


Units of measurement are hectares or km2.

Results are presented as average annual change, % of total area of the country and % of the various land cover types taken by urban development.

Note: Surfaces relate to the extension of urban systems that may include parcels not covered by constructions, streets or other sealed surfaces. This is in particular the case of discontinuous urban fabric, which is considered as a whole. Symmetrically, monitoring the indicator with satellite images leads to exclude most of the linear transport infrastructures, too narrow to be observed directly.


Policy context and targets

Context description

The main policy objective of this indicator is measure the pressure from the development of urban and other artificial land on natural and managed landscapes that are necessary 'to protect and restore the functioning of natural systems and halt the loss of biodiversity' (included in the 6th Environmental Action Program).
Important references can be found in the 6th Environment Action Programme (6EAP COM (2001) 31) and the thematic documents related to it, such as the Commission Communication 'Towards a Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment' (COM (2004) 60), the EU Strategy for Sustainable Development (COM (2001) 264), the new general regulation for the Structural Funds (Council Regulation EC no 1260/1999), the guidelines for INTERREG III (published on 23/05/2000 (OJ C 143) and the ESDP Action Programme and ESPON guidelines for 2001-2006 (Action Programme for the European Spatial Development Perspective, Ministerial Presidential Conclusions, Tampere, October 1999).
There are no quantitative targets for land take for urban development at the European level, although different documents reflect the need for better planning of urban development and the extension of infrastructures.


Land take for urban development:

there are no specific targets at the European level, although different documents reflect the need for better planning to control urban growth (policies relating explicitly to land-use issues, and especially physical and spatial planning, have generally been the responsibility of the authorities in Member States, rather than EU, which does not have an explicit competence in this area).

Related policy documents

  • Council Decision (2002/358/EC) of 25 April 2002
    Council Decision (2002/358/EC) of 25 April 2002 concerning the approval, on behalf of the European Community, of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the joint fulfilment of commitments thereunder.
  • Greenhouse gas monitoring mechanism
    Decision No 280/2004/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 concerning a mechanism for monitoring Community greenhouse gas emissions and for implementing the Kyoto Protocol

Key policy question

How much and in what proportions is agricultural, forest and other semi-natural and natural land being taken for urban and other artificial land development?

Specific policy question

What are the drivers of uptake for urban and other artificial land development?

Specific policy question

Where have the more important artificial land uptakes occurred?


Methodology for indicator calculation

The indicator is currently calculated from Corine land cover 1990 & 2000 mapped from Landsat satellite images. Changes from agriculture, forest and semi-natural/natural land (CLC2 to CLC5) to urban (CLC1) are grouped according to the land cover accounts methodology. Land cover change values are converted to grid cells which are aggregated by countries. In addition to comparable results between countries, the use of the CLC geographic database allows computing the same indicator for smaller units such as regions or river basins. When the indicator refers to country surface, areas are calculated for consistency reasons from the same CLC database as used for the indicator; it may lead to small differences with official country surface numbers due to the use of a single geographical projection system. 

Only polygonal transport areas are recorded in the indicator; land uptake by linear transport infrastructures development will be integrated in a further step on the basis of a high resolution geographical database of transport infrastructures.

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.

Methodology references

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

Surfaces monitored with CLC relate to the extension of urban systems that may include parcels not covered by constructions, streets or other sealed surfaces. This is in particular the case of discontinuous urban fabric, which is considered as a whole. Symmetrically, monitoring the indicator with satellite images leads to exclude most of the linear transport infrastructures, too narrow to be observed directly. The gap will be filled in at a further stage on the basis of a new high resolution database of transport infrastructures and calculations based on established coefficients for each type of transport.

CS014 has been processed according to the land accounting methodology. Both for facilitating computation and visualising spatial change, land accounts are processed using a grid of 3x3 km. Each cell contains the exact CLC values but spatial aggregations are made of entire grid-cells, which may lead to some very limited marginal uncertainty for the border of a given national or regional land unit.

Data sets uncertainty

Geographical and time coverage on EU level

Surfaces monitored with Corine Land Cover relate to the extension of urban systems that may include parcels not covered by construction, streets or other sealed surfaces. This is particularly the case for discontinuous urban fabric, which is considered as a whole. Monitoring the indicator with satellite images leads to the exclusion of small urban features in the countryside and most of the linear transport infrastructures, which are too narrow to be observed directly. Therefore, differences exist between CLC results and other statistics collected with different methodologies such as point or area sampling or farm surveys; this is often the case for agriculture and forest statistics. However, the trends are generally similar.
Geographical and time coverage at the EU level:
All the EU-25 (except Sweden, Finland, Malta and Cyprus) as well as Bulgaria and Romania are covered with both '1990' and 2000 results. '1990' refers to the first experimental phase of CLC, which ran from 1986 up to 2005. 2000 is considering to be a reasonable characterisation (a few satellite images only being from 1999 or 2001, for cloud coverage reasons). Comparisons between countries therefore have to be done on the basis of annual mean values. The average number of years between 2 CLCs in each country is:

be 10
bg 10
cz 8
de 10
dk 10
ee 6
es 14
fr 10
gr 10
hu 9
ie 10
it 10
lt 5
lu 11
lv 5
nl 14
pl 8
pt 14
ro 8
si 5
sk 8

uk 10

Representativeness of data on national level

At the national level, time differences between regions may happen in large countries and these are documented in the CLC meta data. 

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

Work description

Short-Term Plans (year): Turn the current land take indicator into a spatially data based indicator (mainly, using CORINE Land Cover). Then, it would be feasible to evaluate the most affected land cover type (agriculture, forest, etc.) due to the artificialization of the territory through the overlaying of the infrastructure database and the built-up areas with CORINE Land Cover database. When CLC2000 will be available, for example, the different growing patterns of the urban areas could be studied. Then, an estimation of the amount of land consumed by each type of developing pattern as well as the amount of land consumed by each transport mode (including its immediate surroundings) could be achieved and the subsequent analysis of the situation could be done. Therefore, and in order to be able to estimate and evaluate the potential environmental impact of the transport infrastructure development and the increase of built-up areas, the main improvements foreseen for this indicator are the ones listed below: - Implementation of a reliable spatial database of linear transport structures over European countries corresponding to types previously used in statistical datasets. Regarding the statistics already used, complete the national transport infrastructure statistics for certain countries. - Update by comparable spatial data on transport for all countries, namely length according to various infrastructure types. - Compare the statistical results of built-up changes with the results obtained through the analysis of spatial data, when CLC2000 database will be available. - Data collection and analysis at national level. Storage of historical data is needed to allow calculations over time, instead of momentary status descriptions only. - Update the land take by transport infrastructure indicator using GISCO-based transport infrastructure data set for calculations (recent updates of the database not available to the EEA / ETCs due to copyright restrictions) and using as well, commercially available data, with more detailed information on traffic networks and on built-up areas. - Update the indicator using CORINE land cover 2000, with IMAGE 2000 (European satellite image coverage for year 2000). Data extension to other ACs: Malta, Cyprus and Turkey.

Resource needs

  • Update and identification of new transport segments in spatial databases
  • More frequent update of land cover based information (e.g. 5 years)
  • Transport data in real size (direct and indirect land take)


In progress


2099/01/01 00:00:00 GMT+1

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Jean-Louis Weber


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CSI 014
Link: land-take
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Land use Land use


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DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
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