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EEA unveils first digital map of Europe’s changing landscapes

19.11.2004


The first digital map of the multiple changes that have occurred in Europe’s landscapes since 1990 was unveiled today, enabling policy-makers to draw lessons from how their decisions in areas such as agriculture and transport are impacting on the region’s finite land resources and the wider environment.



The European Environment Agency (EEA) presented the results of its Corine Land Cover (CLC) 2000 project at a high-level event in Brussels for representatives from several European Commission departments — including regional policy, agriculture, research and environment — the European Space Agency and the EEA’s current and prospective member countries.

Using a common methodology, CLC2000 provides the first standardised survey of Europe’s land cover for the year 2000 and of the changes that happened over the decade since the first CLC was undertaken in the late 1980s. Both products are publicly available at no cost through the EEA’s web site.


CLC2000’s combination of geographical breadth and local detail is unmatched by any other land cover information programme in the world. The project already covers 30 countries and the number is expected to expand in 2005. “Corine Land Cover 2000 will help policy-makers make better policies and plan a more viable future for Europe”, said Prof. Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director. “It is a unique tool that makes it possible to measure the dynamic relationship between the many uses of our landscapes and the impacts — and unfortunately all too often the conflicts — that arise from different policies, such as agriculture, regional policy and transport.”

The EEA has produced CLC2000 from IMAGE2000, a satellite imaging programme undertaken together with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. Aerial photos and near-ground imaging were also used. From IMAGE2000, experts from across Europe have produced detailed maps showing 44 different land cover types, such as ‘continuous urban fabric,’ ‘pasture’ and ‘non-irrigated arable land.’ CLC2000 is expected to find a wide range of users. The 1990 CLC survey has been accessed by people working in, for example, research, agriculture, physical planning, forestry, education, transport, demography, tourism, energy and health, besides environment. It has also been employed in some commercial applications, for example atlases and in-vehicle navigation systems.

In the policy domain, CLC2000’s uses include providing support for protecting ecosystems, halting the loss of biological diversity, tracking the impacts of climate change, assessing developments in agriculture and implementing the European Union’s Water Framework Directive. It will thus aid implementation of key priority areas of the EU’s 6th environmental action programme. CLC2000 can show, for instance, where fragmentation of the landscape by roads and other infrastructure is worsening and thus increasing the risk that ecosystems can no longer connect with each other, putting the survival of their flora and fauna in danger.

In the agricultural field it can highlight where major structural changes are continuing or intensifying, such as the conversion of pasture to arable land (or the contrary), expansion or reduction in the area of fallow land and land taken out of production (‘set aside’), or the abandonment of farming altogether.

The EEA plans to undertake a thorough analysis of the changes revealed by CLC2000 over the next two years. Among initial findings is an expansion of urban sprawl during the 1990s in many areas, including Italy, the Netherlands, eastern Germany and Ireland. “The huge growth in urban sprawl in eastern Germany is a warning of how neighbouring Poland could develop, now that it qualifies for EU regional development funding, unless action is taken to make such development more benign”, said Prof McGlade. “Meanwhile we can see that in Ireland the urban sprawl is developing not around cities but mainly in remote countryside areas. This socio-economic development may be being encouraged by rural development funding provided under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy”, Prof. McGlade added.

Tony Carritt | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eea.eu.int

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