Impact story

Land cover and land use data in support for policies

Land is a crucial resource; therefore, we need to monitor land cover and land use changes to have insight into potential conflicts. Monitoring is also important for assessing national and EU policies. Wageningen Environmental Research annually produces land cover and land use information, making it possible to track changes over time.


Land is a limiting resource for society. Use of this resource shapes the spatial design of the landscape, so information on land cover and land use data are an important asset for optimal use of the land. Certain types of land use can be easily conflicting. Therefore, a more balanced assessment of possible uses requires sound evidence for decision-making. Land cover and land use changes have an important effect on the environment. Proper insights are required in their impact on climate mitigation/adaptation (climate scenarios), water supply/needs and water quality, carbon reduction and greenhouse gas emissions (LULUCF) and more.


The Applied Spatial Research team of Wageningen Environmental Research (WENR) delivers annually updated land cover and land use information to provide the proper insights to policymakers. Our land use time series of almost 35 years also provides important knowledge on land use dynamics. To accommodate society in an efficient way, the level of detail provided is optimised for analysis on the agricultural parcel level. Since land cover and land use are dependent on many aspects and disciplines, information is collected from different sources and is combined to provide the full picture. Remote sensing images are one of the data sources and integrated with topography, agricultural parcels, statistics and other information sources to produce the Land Cover/Use database of the Netherlands (LGN) with a specific focus on agriculture and nature.

Impact and future perspective

Monitoring of land use changes is a major source of information to make policies more effective and efficient. Planning and managing agencies and research institutes in the Netherlands and the EU use the information in their analysis. Their objective is to prepare, evaluate and adjust policies set out by national and European bodies. For example, the third pillar of the European Climate Action concerns the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) for which land use dynamics can be monitored with our unique time series, providing a sound baseline for climate mitigation policies.

WENR has collected information on land use and land cover since 1986 and that provides means to discover trends. Although not all data are fully compatible, they successfully show how land cover/use develops in the Netherlands.