NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
LPVS website  banner


Focus Area on Land Cover Product Validation

Pontus Olofsson, Boston University, USA
Sophie Bontemps, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium


Land Cover Definition

Land cover is defined as the observed (bio)-physical cover on the Earth's terrestrial surface. It includes vegetation and man-made features as well as bare rock, bare soil and inland water surfaces (Di Gregorio, 2005).

The primary units for characterizing land cover are categories (e.g. Forest or Open Water) or continuous variables classifiers (fraction of Tree Canopy Cover). Secondary outputs include surface area of land cover types (hectares), land cover change (area and change trajectories) (GTOS, 2009).

Highest Validation Stage Currently Reached for Satellite-Derived Land Cover Products

Validation stage 3 (LPV validation stage hierarchy) - This is the highest LPV validation stage reached for satellite-derived land cover products. For reaching validation stage 4, very-high resolution reference data sets from multiple sources and regularly updated interpretations will be necessary. Interpretation of very-high resolution data would be ideal, but global coverage by very high resolution imagery is spatially limited, data costs and processing requirements are very high.

Validation Good Practices

There are two main reference documents for land cover validation methods:

Land cover validation:

Strahler, A.H., Boschetti, L., Foody, G.M., Friedl, M.A., Hansen, M.C., Herold, M., Mayaux, P., Morisette, J.T., Stehman,    S.V. and C.E. Woodcock 2006. Global Land Cover Validation: Recommendations for Evaluation and Accuracy    Assessment of Global and Cover Maps. European Commission Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment    and Sustainability. Scientific and Technical Research Series: EUR 22156 EN. 48 pp.

Land cover change validation:

Olofsson, P., Foody, G. M., Herold, M., Stehman, S. V., Woodcock, C. E. and Wulder, M. A. (2014). Good Practices for    Assessing Accuracy and Estimating Area of Land Change. Remote Sensing of Environment. 148:42-57.

Land Cover Validation Reference Data Sets

Best currently available reference data for satellite-derived medium-resolution land cover product validation are based on higher-quality reference data, such as independent validation datasets and regional maps. Tsendbazar et al., 2014 reviewed existing land cover reference data sets and their suitability as function of the user community. With increasing resolution of future land cover products, the existing reference data sets will need further development.

GOFC-GOLD Reference Data Portal.

LPV Focus Areas



GFOI Plenary 2017, 9-12 April 2017, Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam

EGU 2017, 23-28 April 2017, Vienna, Austria. Abstract submission due 11 Jan 2017, details here.

WorldCover 2017 Conference, 14-16 March, Frascati, Italy

ESA Annouces first gathering of the Sentinel-2 Validation Team (S2VT), 8-29 November 2016, at ESRIN, Frascati, Italy.

NASA Logo -