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NatureScience

British Landscape Detailed Like Never Before

Using 70 satellite images taken between 2005 and 2008, scientists have developed a digital map of Britain that shows in remarkable detail the mosaic of vegetation and land-cover types that makes up the British landscape.

“At a time when our land surface is under increasing pressure, reliable information on land cover is essential,”says Dr Dan Morton of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), who led the UK Land Cover Map (LCM) project. “The demands that we place on our land are often conflicting and need to be balanced to maintain and enhance our quality of life. To address these issues and plan for the future, we need to know what we have on our land surface and where it is. The new map provides that information.”

The map shows the distribution of different sorts of habitats throughout Britain down to an amazing resolution of only 25 metres.

The scientists analysed the satellite photos that they had gathered by computer and then used the colours they found to determine what sort of vegetation was growing in that particular area. Each area was assigned to a land cover type based on existing Biodiversity Action Plan habitat categories.

The results showed that the main categories of land use in Britain are ‘Arable and horticulture’ and ‘improved grassland’ which both take up a quarter of the UK’s land area. ‘Semi-natural grassland’ takes up 13 per cent; ‘mountain, heath and bog’ accounts for another 16 per cent. ‘Urban areas’, ‘coniferous woodland’, ‘broadleaved woodland’ each make up a further 6 per cent, while ‘coastal’ and ‘freshwater’ habitats account for the remaining percentages.

Source: Planet Earth Online




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