Geoinformation, monitoring and assessment Environment

Updated October 1998

Land cover and land use

The ITC/FAO/WAU Land Use Database (LUDB)


To be able to make informed decisions about land use at farm, district and national levels the relative advantages, in terms of outputs, and disadvantages, in terms of impacts, of alternative land use options should be predicted. Therefore, it is necessary to define precisely individual land uses and production systems in terms of activities, inputs, benefits, and effects on the physical and socio-economic environment.

In 1993, AGLS and UNEP launched an initiative to develop an approach for land use description, definition and classification that would be suitable for global application. The Land Use Database is a result of this initiative and was produced in collaboration with the International Institute for Aerospace Surveys and Earth Sciences (ITC) in The Netherlands.

The database program

The Land Use Database is a knowledge-based software for storage, in a fixed data structure, and retrieval of user-defined geo-referenced land use data sets. It is designed to capture and manage land use information obtained by interviews with land users; it is not meant to store and retrieve tabular land use statistics.

Land Use Classes are defined by the user by the application of a set of provided classifiers which are not hierarchically ordered. Additional user-defined classifiers can be entered into the open system. Three types are distinghuished:

The Land Use Database comprises the following three modules:

  1. Glossary: contains definitions and descriptions of Land Use items. The user may add or change definitions.
  2. Data entry: provides options to store and edit Land Use Data as well as user-defined Land Use Classes.
  3. Query: search and retrieval of information stored in Land Use Data and in Land Use Classes. This module allows export of data in commonly used file formats.

Future development

At present the Land Use Database software is DOS-based, it was foreseen to update it to Windows compatible environment at the end of 1997 in collaboration with ITC, which is joint copyright holder. However, no mutual agreement has been reached that this updating should be preferably done at HQ by (part of) the team which created the Land Cover Classification System software and in order to build certain links into the software. Land use and land cover are closely related subjects and as such two modular programs with built-in linkages would result in a practical tool for a variety of applications.

Contact address:

Chief Soil Resources, Management and Conservation Service
FAO - Land and Water Development Division
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, ITALY Fax ++ 39 06 570 56275

Back to Top FAO Homepage