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  • Product Sheet: Land Use

Land use & land use change characterisation


Land cover and land use mapping, Sullom Voe Terminal, Shetland Islands 2014 (Source: GeoVille)



Component products

Land Use


  • N/A



  • Environmental monitoring – Baseline historic mapping of environment and ecosystems
  • Environmental monitoring – Continuous monitoring of changes throughout the lifecycle
  • Environmental monitoring – Cumulative effects analysis
  • Environmental monitoring – Monitoring of encroachment on facilities/infrastructure
  • Environmental monitoring – Natural Hazard Risk Analysis
  • Logistics planning and operations – Facility siting, pipeline routing and roads development
  • Logistics planning and operations – Monitoring of assets
  • Logistics planning and operations – Support to surveying crews for planning surveys and H&S

Geo-information requirements

  • Detailed land use information
  • Distribution and status of infrastructure


Land use maps describe not only the physical characteristics of the Earth’s surface (land cover), but also the actual anthropogenic usage on the ground. The product differentiates basic land cover types (e.g. built-up areas) into different use classes, such as residential areas, industrial complexes, roads, buildings, or cropland.

Land use maps can be created from optical or radar satellite data, but often require additional reference information to characterise the actual land use (e.g. if vegetated areas are grown naturally or under a crop rotation cycle). Features can be extracted from the data and converted to GIS vector formats. The precision and detail of land use information is dependent on the input data resolution. This is especially relevant for features such as roads, buildings and other structures in order to perform GIS analyses or to update existing map data.

Land use cannot be clearly extracted from satellite data in a direct way. That means some forms of utilisation must be derived with the help of multi-temporal analysis, like agricultural areas for example, whilst extraction of road features depends on visual interpretation. For precise land use information additional in-situ information are mandatory.

Whilst medium resolution satellite data with a resolution of 100 meters and below is used to generate overview maps on regional scale (1:1.000.000 and smaller), high (up to 10m) and very high resolution data (up to 1m and below) is used to generate detailed land use maps at the licence/project scale of up to 1:5.000).

Examples of use include the following:

  • Identify land use conflicts during early lifecycle stages,
  • Baseline mapping for any reporting obligations or
  • In combination with other products for hazard and risk analysis.
  • By mapping land use changes based on a series of satellite images, it is possible to calculate the change between land use classes. In this way, changes in the areal extent can be calculated and quantified over time. For instance, a typical task is to determine the urbanisation rate and to examine what land use class the area has changed to. These analyses can be combined with GIS modelling to predict future scenarios.

Known restrictions / limitations

In the inner and outer tropics frequent cloud cover can be an issue for the production of the maps but may be mitigated by combing radar and optical satellite images. The achievable size of mapped objects is depending on the used sensor and its resolution.

Further limitations of mapping land use classes are given by the spectral information of satellite data. Meaning land use cannot be clearly extracted from satellite data in a direct way. Some forms of utilisation can be derived with the help of multi-temporal analysis such as agricultural areas for example, whilst others like roads depend on visual interpretation. For precise land use information additional in-situ information are mandatory. 

Lifecycle stage and demand











In all life cycle stages land use and land use change information are important, for both the lead organisation’s reputation and obligation to the environment, to ensure that the impact O&G activity has on the environment is minimized.


  • Baseline land use information over a large area for a cumulative impact assessment. In cases where Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is needed prior to exploration, land use information over large areas can be used and ensure compliance with environmental legislation.


  • Land use information and changes over large areas support planning of exploration. This helps to ensure that surveys are well planned, time on-the-ground is spent efficiently, and that important social and environmental baseline information is available. Additionally it helps to conduct a constraints analysis by identifying land use conflicts.

Development & Production:

  • Land use information is an important part of an EIA prior to development of a project, e.g. land compensation, resettlement action plans, and minimizing impacts. During production, monitoring land use over large areas around the project can reduce environmental and social risks, induced environmental impacts by local community growth, and potential impacts on local livelihoods.


  • Land use and change information to support project closure planning to ensure sustainable local livelihoods.

Geographic coverage and demand

Demand and coverage is global. Areas with high wave energy, proximate to human populations or high value ecological systems will be of special concern.

Challenges Addressed

OTM:018 Identifying existing O&G infrastructure for facility site selection

OTM:023 Infrastructure planning

OTM:024 Encroachment on O&G assets

OTM:028 Land use mapping to detect the social impact of O&G developments

OTM:029 Prelicensing site selection

OTM:033 Mapping of environmental degradation (change)
OTM:035 Assessing the social impact of construction work

OTM:036 Geohazard exposure analysis
OTM:037 Identification of road or track for logistics planning
OTM:038 Planning secondary surveys
OTM:039 Selection of development sites
OTM:040 Security of pipelines
OTM:047 Logistics planning for emergency events (emergency response planning)
OTM:063 Resettlement assessment

OTM:065 Floodplain mapping
OTM:069 Change detection for competitor intelligence

OTM:070 Understanding security situations

OTM:073 Identifying sources of building resources

OTM:075 Creating basemaps in politically challenging regions

OTM:078 Remote supervision of operations

OTM:079 Identification of archaeological or burial sites


HC:1201 Identify up-to-date general land use patterns to plan access and apply safe setback distances.

HC:1203 Identify areas with soft sediments to plan access and assess hazards

HC:1208 Identify optimal seasonal land use to reduce permitting costs - in particular commercial and subsistance farming practices.>

HC:1209 Identify land parcel boundaries for impact compensation

HC:1214 Identify restricted areas that must be avoided

HC:1215 Identify UXO related hazards

HC:1301 Identify sensitive habitat to minimise and manage impacts of activities

HC:2401 Identify geohazards and landscape change rates

HC:4101 Assess fragmentation of natural habitat and cumulative disturbance

HC:4102 Land cover and land use for environmental baseline and/or impact assessment

HC:4103 Social baseline information to support compensation and/or resettlement

HC:4201 Remediation and reclamation monitoring

HC:4202 Map coastal habitat and built environment/settlement sensitivity to strengthen tactical oil spill response and preparedness>

HC:4203 Monitor "induced access" corridors to assess indirect impacts or effects as a result of project development.

HC:4204 Monitoring local communities and land use in the project area

HC:4205 Remediation monitoring related to agriculture impacts

HC:4207 Understanding and predicting changes in hydrological processes

HC:4302 Floodplain mapping and understanding flood extent and flood frequency.

HC:4306 Assess and manage forest fire risk to facilities and infrastructure

HC:4307 Coastal elevation data for tsunami risk analysis

HC:5101 Obtaining baseline land use for pipeline route planning

HC:5102 Assess potential project site for historical use

HC:5103 Identify subsurface infrastructure for planning of pipeline crossings

HC:5301 Planning and assessing borrow pits as source of aggregate material

HC:5303 Mapping land cover trends over the project area

HC:5305 Identify existing linear routes for co-location of pipelines in wilderness areas

HC:5401 Monitor pipeline corridor hazards

HC:5405 Monitor potential pipeline corridor encroachment by communities


Input data sources

Optical: VHR1, VHR2, HR1, HR2

Radar: VHR1, VHR2, HR1, HR2 (supporting optical)

Supporting data: Spatial thematic data (use information); Existing land cover information

Spatial resolution and coverage

Spatial resolution: 0.5-30 m pixel size

Minimum Mapping Unit (MMU)

MMU is depending on the used input data. For 0.5m input data it is between 25 m² and 50 m² for example.

Accuracy / constraints

Thematic accuracy: 80-90%

Spatial accuracy: The goal would be one pixel, but depends on reference data

Accuracy assessment approach & quality control measures

Stratified random points sampling approach utilizing VHR reference or other geospatial in-situ data. Statistical confusion matrix with user’s, producer’s accuracy and kappa statistics for land use.

Frequency / timeliness

Observation frequency: The frequency is constrained by satellite revisit and acquisition, but also processing requirements. While the minimum frequency is technically driven by the revisit cycle of the satellite, the maximum frequency is defined be the customer. Depending on the requirements of the customer the most suitable satellite sensor has to be chosen considering spatial / spectral resolution as well as revisit frequency. Typically, long-term changes are detected on a yearly basis or longer intervals (frequency can be lower depending on demand).

Timeliness of deliverable: Depending on size of the mapped area, resolution, MMU and number of mapped classes.


Freely available or commercially acquired depending on the sensor selected.

Delivery / output format

Data type:

  • Vector formats
  • Raster formats (depending on customer needs)

File format:

  • Shapefile, client-specified common spatial formats
  • Geotiff or shapefile (standard - any other OGC standard file formats)

 Download product sheet.



Maria Lemper, Jan Miltizer

Document Title:

Land use & land use change characterisation

# of Pages:



Internal – Project consortium and science partners


External – ESA



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