Land take (CSI 014/LSI 001) - Assessment published Jun 2013
Land use (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CSI 014
- LSI 001
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?
Land take by the expansion of residential areas and construction sites is the main cause of the increase in the coverage of urban 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. The annual land take in European countries assessed by 2006 Corine land cover project (EEA39 except Greece) was approximately 108 000 ha/year in 2000-2006. In 21 countries covered by both periods (1990-2000 and 2000-2006) the annual land take decreased by 9 % in the later period. The composition of land taken areas changed, too. More arable land and permanent crops and less pastures and mosaic farmland were taken by artificial development then in 1990-2000. Identified trends are expected to change little when next assessment for 2006-2012 becomes available in 2014.
The largest land cover category taken by urban and other artificial land development was agriculture land. On the average, almost 46 % of all areas that changed to artificial surfaces were arable land or permanent crops during 2000-2006. However, compared to the previous decade (1990-2000) in 21 countries covered both by Corine Land Cover (CLC) 1990-2000 and 2000-2006 it increased to 53 %. This dominant land take was particularly important in Denmark (89 %), Slovakia (87 %), Switzerland (77 %) and Italy (74 %).
Pastures and mixed farmland were, on average, the next category being taken, representing 31.9 % of the total. It was approximately 6 % less then in 1990-2000. However, in several countries or regions, these landscapes were the major source for land uptake (in a broad sense), i.e. in Luxembourg (78 %), Albania (73 %), Bosnia and Herzegovina (72 %) and Ireland (70%).
The proportion of forests and transitional woodland shrub taken for artificial development during the period was 13 %. It was significantly higher in Finland (75 %), Norway (70 %) and Slovenia (62 %).
The consumption of natural grassland, heathland and sclerophylous vegetation by artificial land take was 7.3 % of the whole area, but in Iceland (74 %) it was the largest taken class and significant proportions occurred also in Cyprus (23 %), Belgium (22 %) and Austria (21 %).
Open space with little or no vegetation contributed to taken land with 1.2 %. Larger proportions were in Iceland (7 %), Turkey (5 %) and Norway (5 %).
The least taken classes were water bodies (0.6 %) and wetlands (0.3 %). However, water bodies' contribution in Turkey (3 %) and Finland (2.4 %) was relatively high. Similarly, more wetlands were taken in Estonia (7 %), Iceland (5 %) and Norway (3 %).
In general, more forests, natural grasslands and open spaces were taken by artificial land development then in the previous decade. This meant a higher loss of natural ecosystems in 2000-2006.
Land accounts 2000-2006: http://dataservice.eea.europa.eu/PivotApp/pivot.aspx?pivotid=501
Specific policy question: What are the drivers of uptake for urban and other artificial land development?
At the European level, housing, services and recreation made up 43.2 % of the overall increase in urban and other artificial area between 2000 and 2006. Compared to the previous decade (1990-2000), in 21 countries covered in both periods this driver decreased from 52 % to 40 %. However, the proportion of new land for housing was significantly higher in Albania (95 %), Kosovo (86 %), Bosnia and Herzegovina (77 %) and Cyprus (63 %) . The building of new sport and recreation areas (including also permanent facilities for artificial snowing) was an important driver in mountain or Nordic countries as Norway (46 %), Austria (46 %), Switzerland (32 %), Iceland (28 %), Finland (27 %) and Sweden (27 %).
The second largest area (21.4 %) was taken by construction sites. These sites represent transitional areas that will turn into other newly urbanised classes in future. Thus large coverage of construction sites indicates a potential of further artificial development. This driver increased three times compared to period 1990-2000 (in 21 countries). Construction was a dominant driver in Slovenia (50 %), Lithuania (44 %), Spain (43 %), the Netherlands (40 %), Iceland (38 %) and Montenegro (38 %).
Land take for industrial and commercial sites covered 15.5 % of the whole newly developed land. In 21 countries covered in both periods it decreased from 23 % (1900-2000) to 17 % (2000-2006). The construction of new industrial and commercial sites was particularly important driver in Italy (40 %), Luxembourg (37 %), Slovakia (36 %) and Belgium (33%).
The proportion on newly created mines, quarries and dumpsites was 12.8 % in 38 European countries, but it was significantly higher in Serbia (52 %), Bulgaria (50 %), the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (39 %), Estonia (38 %), Latvia (35 %) and Montenegro (33 %). In 21 countries it remained stable around 13 % during both periods.
Although land take for transport infrastructures is underestimated in surveys that are based on remote sensing as Corine Land Cover, it covered 7.1 % of the taken area. However, its more than a double increase (from 3 % to 7 % in 21 countries covered by both periods) supports the importance of this driver. In fact, the proportions of land taken for transport were rather high in countries as Croatia (60 %), Luxembourg (17 %), Slovenia (17 %), Poland (18 %), Portugal (16 %) and Sweden (15 %). Land take by linear features with a width below 100 m (majority of roads and railways) is not included in the statistics, which focus mostly on areal infrastructures (airports, harbours...). Soil sealing and fragmentation by linear infrastructures therefore need to be observed by other means.
Specific policy question: Where have the more important artificial land uptakes occurred?
Intensity of land take 2000 - 2006
Note: Based on Corine Land Cover 2006 and changes between 2000 and 2006, the map shows the land take distribution and intensity for development of urban and other artificial area
- Corine Land Cover 2000 - 2006 changes provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
- Corine Land Cover 2006 raster data provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
The pace of land take observed by comparing it with the initial extent of urban and other artificial areas in 2000 gives another picture (Figure 3). From this perspective, the average value in 38 European countries covered by CLC 2000-2006 ranges up to an annual increase of 0.5 % (in 21 countries covered by both periods it also slowed down from 0.6 % to 0.5 %). Urban development is fastest in Albania (4.6 % increase in urban area per year), Iceland (3.2 %), Spain (2.8 %), Cyprus (2.3 %) and Ireland (2.1 %). Compared to the previous period 1990-2000, Estonia doubled its speed to 0.7 %, as did the Czech republic and Hungary (both to 0.4 %), on the other hand, some countries slowed their land take speed down Portugal from 3.1 to 1.4 %, Luxembourg from 0.8 to 0.3 % and Germany from 0.7 to 0.4 %.
Considering the contribution of each country to new total urban and infrastructure sprawl in Europe, mean annual values range from 23.5 % (Spain) to 0.001% (Malta), with intermediate values in France (12.2 %), Germany (9.5 %) and Italy (6.8 %). Differences between countries are strongly related to their size and population density (Figure 4).
Land uptake by urban and other artificial development in 38 European countries as identified by Corine land cover amounted to approximately 636 900 hectares in 6 years. It represents 0.1% of the total territory of these countries. This may seem low, but spatial differences are very important and an artificial sprawl in many regions is very intense (Figure 5). Due to its methodological restrains (its scale and minimum mapping unit), Corine land cover tends somewhat lowering the land take, when compared to more detailed estimates. However, the identified trends in land take are similar and proportional to other land use/cover data sources in the countries or in Europe (e.g., LUCAS - Land use/cover area frame survey).
Corine Land Cover 2006 raster data
provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
Corine Land Cover 2000 - 2006 changes
provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoBranislav Olah
EEA Management Plan2010 2.6.2 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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