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Land Cover Assessment and Monitoring

Remote Sensing

  1. Professor Eric Lambin

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a2311

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Lambin, E. 2006. Land Cover Assessment and Monitoring. Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-neuve, Belgium

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


Land-use changes are cumulatively transforming land cover at an accelerating pace, mainly in the tropics. These changes in terrestrial ecosystems are closely linked with the issue of the sustainability of socioeconomic development since they affect essential parts of our natural capital such as climate, soils, vegetation, water resources and biodiversity. Changes in terrestrial ecosystems brought about by human activity are driven by land cover conversion, land degradation, land-use intensification or other forms of land cover modification. The term land cover refers to the attributes of a part of the Earth's land surface and immediate subsurface, including biota, soil, topography, surface and groundwater, and human structures. The term land use refers to the purposes for which humans exploit the land cover. One generally distinguishes between land cover conversion, the complete replacement of one cover type by another, and land cover modification, more subtle changes that affect the character of the land cover without changing its overall classification. Land cover modifications are generally more prevalent than land cover conversions. Two types of satellite sensors are used in land cover applications: fine spatial resolution systems and coarse spatial resolution/high temporal frequency systems. Data are collected in the visible, thermal and microwave ranges of the spectrum. Information in the spatial domain also provides valuable information on land surface attributes. These data are analyzed either for land cover mapping or for land cover monitoring. Current research is moving toward the direct estimation of biophysical surface parameters by model inversion methods. Multisensor approaches are also increasingly being developed.