European Land Cover Mapping: Towards a Systematic Land Monitoring Service in the Copernicus Programme.
Dufourmont, Hans; Langanke, Tobias; Büttner, Gyorgy; Sousa, Ana; Steenmans, Chris

Since the mid 80-ies, the European Commission has established the Corine Land Cover (CLC) initiative, based on interpretation of high resolution satellite imagery, and mainly supporting the Community environmental policies. Over the past few decades, it gradually became one of the flagship European geospatial datasets. CLC provides a 6-yearly land cover land use (LC/LU) mapping over 39 European countries, at a 25ha minimum mapping unit (MMU). CLC-changes are mapped with a 5 ha MMU.

So far, the CLC exercises have been performed on ad hoc project based funding. The upcoming launch of Sentinel 2, and the establishment of the Copernicus programme in the EC, focusing on the provision of core information services in 6 policy domains, provides the opportunity to embed CLC in a structural and continuous European land monitoring initiative, as well as to integrate the Copernicus land services into the global GEO/GEOSS context.

CLC is well adapted to European-wide assessments, despite its coarse resolution and a few problematic mixed classes in the nomenclature. The broad use of CLC beyond environmental policies underlines that success and underpins the need for continued monitoring of LC/LU. Therefore, and in order to address more demanding requirements, the initial operations land monitoring of the Copernicus programme introduce a complementary series of remote sensing based products, i.e. the high resolution layers (HRLs) on thematic land cover characteristics.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) is currently implementing these HRLs, on the following topics 1) degree of imperviousness, 2) forest (tree cover density and forest type), 3) permanent grasslands, 4) wetlands and 5) water-bodies for 39 countries in Europe, for the 2012 reference year.

The HRL's are being produced at 20 x 20 m spatial resolution, and will be distributed as validated 100 m products. The HRLs are based on ortho-rectified IRS-P6 and RapidEye data, resampled to the same 20 x 20 m resolution. The data acquired by the GMES contributing missions (GCM) are made accessible through the ESA GMES data warehouse. Additional medium resolution AWiFS data is available and being used mainly for the grassland and wetland HRL.

We outline the experiences with the EO data provided by the GMES contributing missions, the thematic differences between HRL’s and how their specific requirements challenge the provision of HR imagery, as well as how improvements are to be expected from the Sentinel2 data. We outline the status of production of both CLC and HRLs. Finally we briefly discuss recommendations from the on-going experience for the full operational phase of the Copernicus land monitoring services. ,