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Teagasc Produce First Ever Land Cover and Habitat Map of Ireland

Teagasc has produced the first and only high resolution national land cover and habitat maps of Ireland.

Produced as part of the Teagasc/EPA Digital Soil and Subsoils project, these two maps provide a basis for the analysis of land cover change.

Using advanced image processing techniques and expert rule classification, Teagasc researchers used computers to automatically classify satellite images into different types of land cover and habitats.

Space borne sensors, such as the LANDSAT Thematic Mapper used in this project, can record images across large geographic areas and in parts of the electro-magnetic spectrum that human eyes cannot see. Thirteen images were used in the project to cover the country in mapping areas as small as one hectare into classes such as “Mature Forestry” and “Wet Grassland”.

The two maps; Teagasc Land Cover 1995 and Teagasc Habitat Indicator Map 1995 (1995 was chosen for consistency with other elements of the project) now provide a baseline for other researchers. These maps will allow the effect the Celtic Tiger period had on changing land use, agricultural land lost to other uses, soils consumed in development,and habitat changes, to be quantified.

Teagasc researcher Stuart Green says: “This project shows the enormous potential for the use of satellites in monitoring land use, agriculture and the wider environment. This research could not have been achieved using conventional methods. Images from space allow us to see the broader picture but also to zoom into great detail; mapping and measuring things that we cannot see by eye.”

This work is funded by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG), managed through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and known as the ‘Teagasc/EPA Soils and Subsoils Project’.

The full article “Teagasc’s national land cover and habitat maps” can be seen in the Spring 2010 issue of TResearch, Teagasc’s research and innovation magazine: www.teagasc.ie/publications/tresearch/

The soil and subsoil maps will be detailed in the next issue of TResearch (Summer 2010).