You are here

Land-Use / Land-Cover


The changes in the physical surface of the Earth (vegetation, water, urban centers, etc.).


Determining the effects of land-use and land-cover change on the Earth system depends on an understanding of past land-use practices, current land-use and land-cover patterns, and projections of future land use and cover, as affected by human institutions, population size and distribution, economic development, technology, and other factors. The combination of climate and land-use change may have profound effects on the habitability of Earth in more significant ways than either acting alone. While land-use change is often a driver of environmental and climatic changes, a changing climate can in turn affect land use and land cover. Climate variability alters land-use practices differently in different parts of the world, highlighting differences in regional and national vulnerability and resilience.

Research Questions

1. What tools or methods are needed to better characterize historic and current land-use and land-cover attributes and dynamics?

2. What are the primary drivers of land-use and land-cover change?

3. What will land-use and land-cover patterns and characteristics be 5 to 50 years into the future?

4. How do climate variability and change affect land use and land cover, and what are the potential feedbacks of changes in land use and land cover to climate?

5. What are the environmental, social, economic, and human health consequences of current and potential land-use and land-cover change over the next 5 to 50 years?

Source: Climate Change Science Program, and The Subcommittee Global Change Research. "Our Changing Planet: The U.S. Climate Change Science Program for Fiscal Year 2006." Washington: Climate Change Science Program Office, 2006.

Other Research Areas