Translating land cover/land use classifications to habitat taxonomies for landscape monitoring: A Mediterranean assessment

Valeria Tomaselli, Panayotis Dimopoulos, Carmela Marangi, Anthanasios S. Kallimanis, Maria Adamo, Cristina Tarantino, Maria Panitsa, Massimo Terzi, Giuseppe Veronico, Francesco Lovergine, Harini Nagendra, Richard Lucas, Paola Mairota, Caspar A. Mücher, Palma Blonda

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Periodic monitoring of biodiversity changes at a landscape scale constitutes a key issue for conservation managers. Earth observation (EO) data offer a potential solution, through direct or indirect mapping of species or habitats. Most national and international programs rely on the use of land cover (LC) and/or land use (LU) classification systems. Yet, these are not as clearly relatable to biodiversity in comparison to habitat classifications, and provide less scope for monitoring. While a conversion from LC/LU classification to habitat classification can be of great utility, differences in definitions and criteria have so far limited the establishment of a unified approach for such translation between these two classification systems. Focusing on five Mediterranean NATURA 2000 sites, this paper considers the scope for three of the most commonly used global LC/LU taxonomies—CORINE Land Cover, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) land cover classification system (LCCS) and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme to be translated to habitat taxonomies. Through both quantitative and expert knowledge based qualitative analysis of selected taxonomies, FAO-LCCS turns out to be the best candidate to cope with the complexity of habitat description and provides a framework for EO and in situ data integration for habitat mapping, reducing uncertainties and class overlaps and bridging the gap between LC/LU and habitats domains for landscape monitoring—a major issue for conservation. This study also highlights the need to modify the FAO-LCCS hierarchical class description process to permit the addition of attributes based on class-specific expert knowledge to select multi-temporal (seasonal) EO data and improve classification. An application of LC/LU to habitat mapping is provided for a coastal Natura 2000 site with high classification accuracy as a result.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)905-930
Number of pages26
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 08 Mar 2013


  • mapping
  • land cover
  • habitat
  • earth observation
  • taxonomies
  • Natura 2000
  • classification schemes


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