Developing and applying a multi-purpose land cover validation dataset for Africa

Published on
November 12, 2018

An article of Nandika Tsendbazar, Martin Herold, Sytze de Bruin, Myroslava Lesiv, Steffen Fritz, Ruben Van De Kerchove, Marcel Buchhorn, Martina Duerauer, Zoltan Szantoid, Jean-Francois Pekel: Developing and applying a multi-purpose land cover validation dataset for Africa, has been published in Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 219, 15 December 2018, Pages 298-309.


The production of global land cover products has accelerated significantly over the past decade thanks to the availability of higher spatial and temporal resolution satellite data and increased computation capabilities. The quality of these products should be assessed according to internationally promoted requirements e.g., by the Committee on Earth Observation Systems-Working Group on Calibration and Validation (CEOS-WGCV) and updated accuracy should be provided with new releases (Stage-4 validation). Providing updated accuracies for the yearly maps would require considerable effort for collecting validation datasets. To save time and effort on data collection, validation datasets should be designed to suit multiple map assessments and should be easily adjustable for a timely validation of new releases of land cover products. This study introduces a validation dataset aimed to facilitate multi-purpose assessments and its applicability is demonstrated in three different assessments focusing on validating discrete and fractional land cover maps, map comparison and user-oriented map assessments. The validation dataset is generated primarily to validate the newly released 100 m spatial resolution land cover product from the Copernicus Global Land Service (CGLS-LC100). The validation dataset includes 3617 sample sites in Africa based on stratified sampling. Each site corresponds to an area of 100 m × 100 m. Within site, reference land cover information was collected at 100 subpixels of 10 m × 10 m allowing the land cover information to be suitable for different resolution and legends. Firstly, using this dataset, we validated both the discrete and fractional land cover layers of the CGLS-LC100 product. The CGLS-LC100 discrete map was found to have an overall accuracy of 74.6 ± 2.1% (at 95% confidence level) for the African continent. Fraction cover products were found to have mean absolute errors of 9.3, 8.8, 16.2, and 6.5% for trees, shrubs, herbaceous vegetation and bare ground, respectively. Secondly, for user-oriented map assessment, we assessed the accuracy of the CGLS-LC100 map from four user groups' perspectives (forest monitoring, crop monitoring, biodiversity and climate modelling). Overall accuracies for these perspectives vary between 73.7% ± 2.1% and 93.5% ± 0.9%, depending on the land cover classes of interest. Thirdly, for map comparison, we assessed the accuracy of the Globeland30-2010 map at 30 m spatial resolution. Using the subpixel level validation data, we derived 15,252 sample pixels at 30 m spatial resolution. Based on these sample pixels, the overall accuracy of the Globeland30-2010 map was found to be 66.6 ± 2.4% for Africa. The three assessments exemplify the applicability of multi-purpose validation datasets which are recommended to increase map validation efficiency and consistency. Assessments of subsequent yearly maps can be conducted by augmenting or updating the dataset with sample sites in identified change areas.

Keywords: Land cover validation; Validation data; Multi-purpose assessments; Discrete and fractional land cover; Map comparison and user specific accuracies