Land Cover
Classification System (LCCS):

Classification Concepts
and User Manual

For software
version 1.0

Antonio Di Gregorio
Environment and Natural Resources Service
Africover - East Africa Project
Nairobi, Kenia
Louisa J.M. Jansen
FAO Land and Water Development Division

The conclusions given in this report are considered appropriate at the time of its preparation. They may be modified in the light of further knowledge gained at subsequent stages of the project.

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this document do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal or constitutional status of any country, territory, city or sea area or of its authorities, or concerning the delineation of its frontiers or boundaries.

ISBN 92-5-104216-0

All rights reserved. Reproduction and dissemination of material in this information product for educational or other non-commercial purposes are authorized without any prior written permission from the copyright holders provided the source is fully acknowledged. Reproduction of material in this information product for resale or other commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission of the copyright holders. Applications for such permission should be addressed to the Chief, Publishing and Multimedia Service, Information Division, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy or by e-mail to

  FAO 2000




List of figures

List of tables

PART A - Land Cover Classification System:
A Dichotomous, Modular-Hierarchical Approach
Classification Concepts



1.1 Land cover

1.2 Classification and legend

1.3 Hierarchical versus non-hierarchical systems

1.4 A priori and a posteriori systems

2. The conceptual basis

2.1 Problems with current classification systems

2.1.1 Purpose

2.1.2 Consistency

2.1.3 The underlying common principle

2.1.4 A priori classification systems

2.2 The basis for a new approach

2.2.1 Adopted definition of land cover

2.2.2 A new approach to classification

2.3 Land cover classification system: design criteria

2.3.1 Dichotomous phase

2.3.2 Odular-hierarchical phase

2.3.3. Concepts for the primarily vegetated areas Natural and semi-natural vegetation (a12 and a24) Cultivated and managed terrestrial areas (a11 and a23)

2.3.4. Concepts for primarily non-vegetated areas Artificial surfaces and associated areas (b15) Bare areas (b16) Artificial and natural waterbodies, snow and ice (b27 and b28)

2.3.5 Environmental and specific technical attributes Environmental attributes Specific technical attributes

2.4 The advantages of the adopted method

2.4.1 Advantages from the conceptual point of view

2.4.2 Advantages from the practical point of view

2.5 from classification to legend

2.5.1 The Minimal Mappable Area concept

2.5.2 The occurrence of Mixed Mapping Units

PART B - Land Cover Classification System:
User Manual


System Requirements



5.1 Classification

5.1.1 Purpose

5.1.2 Dichotomous Phase

5.1.3 Modular-Hierarchical Phase

5.2 Legend

5.2.1 Purpose

5.2.2 How To Create A Legend

5.2.3 Adding User-Defined Attributes

5.2.4 Display

5.2.5 Edit

5.2.6 Standard Description

5.2.8 Print

5.2.9 Save/Retrieve

5.2.10 Export/Import

5.2.11 New Legend

5.2.12 Close

5.3 Field Data

5.3.1 Purpose

5.4 Translator

5.4.1 Purpose

5.4.2 How to translate a classification or legend

5.4.3 Comparison of External Classes

5.4.4 Comparison of two LCCS classes




A. Glossary of Classifiers, Modifiers and Attributes

B. Presentation of Major Land Cover Categories

C. Overview of Classifiers, Modifiers and Attributes Coding

D. Translator - Comparison and similarity Assessment Values

E. LCCS Software Application - Staff