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Land Cover

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This map shows the distribution of land cover types across Canada, based on satellite data obtained in 1995. The land cover map contains 31 classes: 12 forest; 3 shrubland; 7 tundra/grasslands; 7 developed land types including cropland, mosaic and built-up areas; and 2 water cover types.

Each land cover type can be identified by its unique spectral signature. Each signature is identified by a particular colour on the map. A general colour guide to identify land cover classes is shown below.

Colour Guide

  • green colours generally represent coniferous forest
  • brownish colours portray more northern coniferous forest
  • yellow/orange to reddish colours stand for broadleaf and various mixed forest classes
  • light greenish yellow to beige represent poorly forested land cover types including wetlands
  • bluish colours in the north stand for tundra except for recent burns which are shown in dark blue in the northern part of the coniferous forest
  • lighter colours in the south portray grassland and developed land

Detailed descriptions of the land cover classes used on the map are found in the document:

Origin of the Data

This map is based on satellite data obtained in 1995 by the Advance Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on board the NOAA-14 (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) satellite. To achieve this image, a complicated data process, which consists of two main phases, is performed. A noise-free data set is prepared and land cover information is extracted. The spatial resolution is about 1 kilometre square. This means that one pixel on the map is equal to one kilometre square on the ground.

Land Cover's Role

Land cover plays an important role in many Earth processes: the absorption of solar radiation and its use by the ecosystem and the air near the surface; uptake of carbon dioxide by plants; release of water vapour to contribute to cloud formation; and others. It is important information needed by international environmental conventions including those on climate, biodiversity, and desertification. Land cover type is the main parameter used in computer models of land ecosystems. From the economic and management perspectives, land cover is a key input to resource management and policy decisions.