Land Cover

Open water habitat
Land Cover Project
Project Runtime
Ongoing since 1988
Project Summary

Land cover is a description of landscape and details the wildlife habitats, farmland, towns and villages found in Cornwall. ERCCIS works to determine the changes that have taken place in the land cover of Cornwall periodically since 1988 and has produced a summary of Cornwall's landscape. 

ERCCIS has been creating detailed habitat and landscape maps of Cornwall since 1988 to help understand long term changes and treats facing natural habitats in the region. 


Land Cover 1988

The first county wide habitat map of Cornwall was created by ERCCIS staff during 1988. Originally this project was entirly based on large paper maps, based on aerial photos and ground truthed at key sites. The data collected was later digitised and is held within ERCCIS. 


Land Cover 1995

A repeat of Land Cover was conducted in 1995 using up dated aerial photos and digitally mapped. This gave ERCCIS a unique opportunity to compare long term changes in the landscape of Cornwall. ​

Key Findings

  • The loss of 66 hectares of agricultural land to built development between 1988 and 1995. Enclosed farmland is a hugely important habitat for threatened species such as skylark, barn owl, dormice, all bat species and the marsh fritillary butterfly.
  • Over 200 ha of wetland habitats was lost between 1988 and 1995, particularly Culm grasslands in north Cornwall.


Land Cover 2005

Conducted as part of the Land Cover Change project, Land Cover for Cornwall was updated using 2005 aerial photos of the Cornish landscape. 

Key Findings

  • Reassuringly, the losses of important wildlife habitat were relatively small in comparison from 1988 to 1995, particularly the loss of Cornish hedges since the introduction of the Hedgerow Regulations in 1997.
  • Losses of 14 hectares of heathland and 32 hectares of wetland continued; together this losses amount to an area equivalent to 100 football pitches.
  • Conservation programmes have worked towards the re-establishment of areas of wildlife habitat including 180 hectares of heathland in the St Austell China Clay region and these will have increasing value for wildlife as they become fully established.
  • The largest change during the decade was the loss of agricultural land to built development; the loss in decade was 1900 hectares compared to the 66 hectares lost between 1988 and 1995.


Land Cover 2015

ERCCIS is currently undertaking a re-mapping of Cornwall's habitats using up to date aerial photographs, LIDAR data and digital map analysis. This project is due to complete in 2017, stay tuned for updates!


Explore the Land Cover projects