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  • Product Sheet: Soil Sealing

Soil Sealing


Imperviousness degree, Istanbul, Turkey 2012 (Source: GeoVille/EEA)



Component products

Land Use


  • N/A



  • Environmental monitoring – Baseline historic mapping of environment and ecosystems
  • Environmental monitoring – Continuous monitoring of changes throughout the lifecycle
  • Logistic planning and operations – Baseline mapping of terrain and infrastructure
  • Logistic planning and operations – Facility siting, pipeline routing and roads development
  • Logistic planning and operations – Monitoring of assets

Geo-information requirements

  • Detailed land use information
  • Distribution and status of infrastructure


This product maps up-to-date and historical information on the extent, development and density of sealed areas. Soil sealing is the covering of the soil surface with materials like concrete and stone, as a result of new buildings, roads, parking places etc. Depending on its degree, soil sealing reduces or (most likely) completely prevents natural soil functions and ecosystem services on the area concerned and reduces permeability of the soil. Maps of soil sealing levels can assist in understanding the impact on the environment, drainage and water infiltration of both urban expansion and the development of related infrastructure.

Various types of thematic analysis can be performed when combining these products with other data, such as demographic and economic data, spatial indicators on the exposure to natural hazards, climate change related risks and policy-relevant indicators on essential spatial planning parameters (e.g. land consumption per capita, pressure on protected areas)

Soil sealing can be produced based on high resolution data.

EEA have produced a high resolution soil sealing layer for the whole of Europe for the years 2006, 2009 and 2012 (will be released in December 2014) based on the same satellite images as used for CORINE land cover data.

This product delivers PDF maps or vector/raster digital files that delineate and identify:

  • Built-up area (sealed soils - impermeable built environment such as concrete, asphalt and metal surfaces) vs non-built up areas (non-sealed soils) thematic classes
  • Degree of soil sealing, e.g. 0-100% area with sealed soils per ha
  • Trends of soil sealing in %

Known restrictions / limitations

In the tropics, frequent cloud cover can be an issue for data collection and image creation.  This may be mitigated to some extent by utilising radar imagery.

Spectral distinction between bare areas and built-up can be challenging. High thematic accuracies may involve manual editing which is ultimately more time consuming.

Lifecycle stage and demand











Pre-Licensing & Exploration:

  • Information on built-up areas to understand the location or patterns of local communities and their changes to more sensitively plan O&G activities e.g. modelling of run-off and risk analysis related to flash floods


  • Facility siting, pipeline routing and roads development


  • Monitoring of assets. Information regarding shut-in or abandoned wells or other assets that are non-operational for a period of time - these can quickly be engulfed by local populations as the informal urban area development or sprawl (e.g. Mexico).   In this manner, soil sealing maps can contribute to identify urban encroachment.
  • Monitoring community development and socio-economic conditions is likely part of ongoing environmental or social monitoring during operations. This includes being able to identify impacts on urban planning and development, and work with local government to minimise negative development patterns. Furthermore, monitoring the social implications of O&G operations allows the operator to objectively highlight areas of success and those in need of improvement. 


  • To support any regulatory or other requirement for ongoing monitoring e.g. of restoration and socio-economic impacts.

Geographic coverage and demand

Demand and coverage is global.


OTM:018 Identifying existing O&G infrastructure for facility site selection
OTM:024 Urban encroachment on O&G assets
OTM:028 Land use mapping to detect the social impact of O&G developments
OTM:031 Creating an ecosystem inventory prior to exploration
OTM:032 Detecting ecosystem damages
OTM:033 Mapping of environmental degradation (change)
OTM:037 Identification of road or track for logistics planning
OTM:063 Resettlement assessment
OTM:079 Identification of archaeological or burial sites


HC:2504 Identification of slope instability
HC:4302 Floodplain mapping and understanding flood extent and flood frequency.
HC:4304 Situational awareness information on water levels and lake extents and potential flooding
HC:5102 Assess potential project site for historical use


Input data sources

Optical: HR1, HR2, MR1

Radar: HR1, HR2, MR1

Supporting data:

  • Optical: VHR1, VHR2
  • In situ data if available (e.g. cadastre information)

Spatial resolution and coverage

Spatial Resolution: 4 – 50 m resulting in scales of 1:25.000

Minimum Mapping Unit (MMU)

The MMU is dependent on the input data resolution, the mapped objects and the accuracy to be achieved. Monitoring soil sealing, typically hectares to km² at a time.

For optical satellite data with 4 m spatial resolution, a MMU of 256 m² can be achieved for example.

Accuracy / constraints

The spatial and thematic accuracies of soil sealing products depend mostly on the urban mapping products they are based on.

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 and producer’s accuracy as well as kappa statistics for soil sealing.

Frequency / timeliness

Observation frequency: The temporal resolution (update frequency) is usually once every 3–5 years, but is limited only by the availability of satellite data (available globally every few days/weeks, depending on geographic latitude, cloud cover and data acquisition schedule) and the ancillary, non-EO (demographic, economic) datasets.

Timeliness of deliverable: Dependent on size of the mapped area, resolution, MMU.


Freely available or commercially acquired depending on the sensor selected.

Delivery / output format

Data type:

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

For detailed soil sealing information the use of vector data would be superior to raster data, as multiple raster files would be necessary to convey the same information. Vector data is capable of keeping more complex information than a raster data.

File format:

  • Geotiff or shapefile (standard - any other OGC standard file formats)


Download product sheet.



Lead Author:GeoVille
Peer Reviewer:Hatfield Consultants


Maria Lemper, Jan Militzer

Document Title:

Soil Sealing

# of Pages:



Internal – Project consortium and science partners


External – ESA



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