Land Cover

Open water and wetland, St Marys
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 threats facing semi-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 entirely produced 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. ​


Land Cover 2005

Extensive work carried out in 2009 by staff at ERCCIS, has enabled Cornwall Wildlife Trust and its key partner Cornwall Council to gain a comprehensive view of how the landscape of Cornwall has changed in the decade 1995-2005 and the impacts the changes may be having on the county’s biodiversity.

The Land Cover change project required a detailed analysis of aerial photographs taken in 1995 and in 2005, enabling ERCCIS to determine the changes in Cornwall’s land cover. The study has found that in the decade 1995 to 2005, losses of important wildlife habitat were relatively small in comparison to losses which occurred in previous years. However, there has been a continued loss of important areas. For example, an area equivalent to just over 100 football pitches of heathland and wetland habitat has been lost.

Download the report here


The Isles of Scilly Land Cover project was undertaken to produce a summary of land cover within the Isles of Scilly in 2005 and this will be used as a baseline for mapping subsequent Land Cover change. The need for this work was recognised by the Isles of Scilly AONB Management Plan 2010-2014 and the Isles of Scilly Biodiversity Audit. Identifying and mapping Land Cover is a useful indicator to help monitor landscape scale change and this will also correspond with analysis carried out for Cornwall, most recently the Cornwall Land Cover Change Project 2005 .

The project used interpretation of aerial photography to produce digital maps which provide an overview of the extent and distribution of habitats present across the islands.

The landscape and biodiversity importance of the Isles of Scilly is recognised in their designation as both an AONB and Heritage Coast, together with a combination of international Ramsar Sites, European Special Protection Area (SPA) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and national Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designations. Protecting this unique environment is underpinned by a detailed understanding of the habitats present, their distribution, quality and vulnerability to change.

Download the report here


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.