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Land take

Indicator Assessment Created 19 May 2005 Published 08 Nov 2005 Last modified 03 Sep 2015, 07:17 PM
Note: new version is available!
Indicator codes: CSI 014

Key messages

Land take by the expansion of artificial areas and related infrastructure is the main cause of the increase in the coverage of land at the European level. Agricultural zones and, to a lesser extent, forests and semi-natural and natural areas, are disappearing in favour of the development of artificial surfaces. This affects biodiversity since it decreases habitats, the living space of a number of species, and fragments the landscapes that support and connect them.

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?

Relative contribution of land-cover categories to uptake by urban and other artificial land development

Note: In some large countries, dates of satellite images for regions may differ by several years

Data source:
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The largest land-cover category being taken by urban and other artificial land development (average for 23 European countries) is agriculture land. During 1990-2000, 48% of all areas that changed to artificial surfaces were arable land or permanent crops. This process is particularly important in Denmark (80 %) and Germany (72 %). Pastures and mixed farmland are, on average, the next category being taken, representing 36% of the total. However, in several countries or regions, these landscapes are the major source for land-take (in a broad sense), for example in Ireland (80%) and the Netherlands (60%).
 
The proportion of forested and natural land taken for artificial development during the period is important in Portugal (35%), Spain (31%) and Greece (23%).

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

Land take by several types of human activity per year in 23 European countries, 1990-2000

Note: In some large countries, dates of satellite images for regions may differ by several years

Data source:
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At the European level, housing, services and recreation make up half of the overall increase in urban and other artificial area between 1990 and 2000. But the situation varies, from countries with proportions of new  land take for housing, services and recreation higher than 70% (Luxembourg and Ireland) to countries like Greece (16%) and Poland (22%) where urban development is, instead, due mainly to industrial/commercial activity.
Industrial/commercial sites is the next sector responsible for land take, with 31% of the average European new land uptake during the period. However, this sector is taking the largest proportion of new uptake in Belgium (48%), Greece (43%) and Hungary (32%).
Land take for mines, quarries and waste dumpsites was relatively important in countries with low artificial land take during the 1990-2000 period as well as in Poland (43%) where mines are a key sector of the economy. At the European level, the percentage of the total new land take for mines, quarries and waste dumpsites is 14%.
Land take for transport infrastructures (3.2% of the total new artificial cover) is underestimated in surveys that are based on remote-sensing like Corine Land Cover (CLC). Land take by linear features such as roads and railways is not included in the statistics, which focus only on area infrastructures (airports, harbours....). Soil sealing and fragmentation by linear infrastructures therefore need to be observed by different means.

Where have the more important artificial land uptakes occurred?

Mean annual urban land take as a percentage of total Europe-23 urban land take 1990-2000

Note: In some large countries, dates of satellite images for regions may differ by several years

Data source:
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Mean annual urban land take 1990-2000 as a percentage of 1990 artificial land

Note: In some large countries, dates of satellite images for regions may differ by several years

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Land uptake by urban and other artificial development in the 23 European countries covered by Corine Land Cover 2000 amounted to 917 224 hectares in 10 years. It represents 0.3% of the total territory of these countries. This may seem low, but spatial differences are very important and urban sprawl in many regions is very intense.

Considering the contribution of each country to new total urban and infrastructure sprawl in Europe, mean annual values range from 22% (Germany) to 0.02% (Latvia), with intermediate values in France (15%), Spain (13.3%) and Italy (9.1%). Differences between countries are strongly related to their size and population density (Figure 3).

The pace of land take observed by comparing it with the initial extent of urban and other artificial areas in 1990 gives another picture (Figure 4). From this perspective, the average value in the 23 European countries covered by CLC2000 ranges up to an annual increase of 0.7%. Urban development is fastest in Ireland (3.1% increase in urban area per year), Portugal (2.8%), Spain (1.9%) and the Netherlands (1.6%). However, this comparison reflects different initial conditions; for example Ireland had a very small amount of urban area in 1990 and the Netherlands one of the largest in Europe. Urban sprawl in new Member States is generally lower than in the EU-15 countries, in absolute and relative terms.

Indicator specification and metadata

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

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.

Targets

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

Methodology

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

No methodology references available.

Uncertainties

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

Data sources

Generic metadata

Topics:

Land use Land use (Primary topic)

Natural resources Natural resources

Biodiversity Biodiversity

Tags:
soer2010 | terrestrial environment | csi
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 014
Geographic coverage:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Jean-Louis Weber

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2010 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100