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Land Cover Classification System (LCCS): Classification Concepts and User Manual.
Di Gregorio, A., and Jansen, L.J.M. Environment and Natural Resources Service, GCP/RAF/287/ITA Africover - East Africa Project and Soil Resources, Management and Conservation Service. 179 pages, 28 figures, 3 tables and including CD-ROM. FAO, Rome. 2000.


The Land Cover Classification System (LCCS) is a comprehensive, standardized a priori classification system, designed to meet specific user requirements, and created for mapping exercises, independent of the scale or means used to map. Any land cover identified anywhere in the world can be readily accommodated. The classification uses a set of independent diagnostic criteria that allow correlation with existing classifications and legends.

Land cover classes are defined by a combination of a set of independent diagnostic criteria - the so-called classifiers - that are hierarchically arranged to assure a high degree of geographical accuracy. Because of the heterogeneity of land cover, the same set of classifiers cannot be used to define all land cover types. The hierarchical structure of the classifiers may differ from one land cover type to another. Therefore, the classification has two main phases:

This approach allows the use of the most appropriate classifiers and reduces the total number of impractical combinations of classifiers. Because of the complexity of the classification and the need for standardization, a software application has been developed to assist the interpretation process. This will reduce heterogeneity between interpreters and between interpretations over time. Because of the flexible manner in which the classification is set up, with creation of classes at different levels of the system and the optional use of modifiers, environmental attributes and specific technical attributes in combination, coupled with the tremendous number of classes possible, this innovative software application assists the user to select the appropriate class using a step-by-step process, i.e., classifier by classifier. The software application will be available both as a stand-alone product and integrated into a digital image interpretation software suite which will allow interpretation of imagery followed by labelling of the mapping units with the land cover classes, the Africover Interpretation and Mapping System (AIMS).

The classification system leads to mutually exclusive land cover classes, which comprise: (1) a unique Boolean formula (a coded string of classifiers used); (2) a standard name; and (3) a unique numerical code. Both the numerical code and standard name can be used to build an automatically generated Legend, with the classes created grouped according to the main land cover categories and their domains according to the level of detail. The nomenclature can be linked to a user-defined name in any language.

Further definition of the Land Cover Class can be achieved by adding attributes. Two types of attributes, which form separate levels in the classification, are distinguished:

All Primarily Vegetated land cover classes are derived from a consistent physiognomic-structural conceptual approach that combines the classifiers Life Form, Cover and Height (in (Semi)Natural Vegetation) and Life Form (in Cultivated Areas) with Spatial Distribution. The Primarily Non-Vegetated classes have a similar approach, using classifiers that deal with surface aspects, distribution/density and height/depth.

The advantages of the classifier, or parametric, approach are manifold. The system created is a highly flexible a priori land cover classification in which each land cover class is clearly and systematically defined, thus providing internal consistency. The system is truly hierarchical and applicable at a variety of scales. Re-arrangement of the classes based on re-grouping of the classifiers used facilitates extensive use of the outputs by a wide variety of end-users. Accuracy assessment of the end product can be generated by class or by the individual classifiers forming the class. All land covers can be accommodated in this highly flexible system; the classification could therefore serve as a universally applicable reference base for land cover, thus contributing towards data harmonization and standardization.


land cover, classification, classification system, standardization, harmonization.

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