New global land map to aid forecasting and study of climate change

December 2, 2003

Brussels, 01 Dec 2003

A global land map, containing an overview of the planet's vegetation and land cover, was unveiled by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and over 30 partners at a conference in Baveno, Italy, on 26 November.

GLC2000 is a global land cover database with the potential to advance knowledge of climate change and enable scientists to make more accurate forecasts of natural and manmade disasters. It was completed by an international partnership of over 30 research organisations, coordinated by the JRC.

Commenting on the project's results, EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said: 'By working together, scientists from around the world have given us a unique and accurate picture of the state of our planet's surface as we enter the third millennium. Thanks to this comprehensive mapping, we can better monitor the effects of climate change and human activity on nature.'

Global land cover monitoring is one of the key areas addressed by the Commission and European Space Agency's joint initiative on Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security (GMES). Apart from advancing the scientific study of eco-systems, bio-diversity and climate change, the GLC2000 project will also improve weather forecasting and the prediction of disasters, from floods to fires and heat-waves.

Until the launch of GLC2000, scientists working in areas such as climate modelling, resource management and ecosystem studies were basing their conclusions on satellite observations collected between 1992 and 1993. However, significant changes in the planet's land cover have taken place since the early 1990s. For example, almost six million hectares of humid tropical forest have disappeared each year since 1993. Science has also moved on as newer and better sensors have been launched into space, and experts have improved the methodologies used for analysing land cover map data.

Daily observations of the planet's land surface, under the GLC2000 initiative took place from 1 November 1999 to 31 December 2000 using the 'VEGETATION' sensor flying on the SPOT-4 satellite. This contribution to the international initiative was made by a consortium of European partners - the European Commission, the French Centre National d' Etudes Spatiales, the Swedish National Space Board, the Italian Space Agency and the Belgian Office of Science and Technology.

As in Europe, local experts across the world mapped their respective regions until a full planetary picture was built up. The JRC then analysed the regional maps and used them to create the GLC2000 database. This new map presents 22 detailed land cover types, ranging from forest and agricultural lands to cities, deserts and permanent snowfields.

The unveiling of GLC2000 in Baveno was followed by a meeting of the ad hoc intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO). Participants discussed progress on a ten year plan to implement a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained Earth observation system or set of systems. The first meeting on this subject took place in August 2003 in Washington, DC, immediately after the first Earth Observation Summit, which established the group.

For further information on GLC2000, please consult the following web address http://www.gvm.jrc.it/glc2000/defaultGLC2000.htm

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