​​Land use means the purpose to which the land cover is committed. Some land uses, such as agriculture, have a characteristic land cover pattern. These usually appear in land cover classifications. Other land uses, such as nature conservation, are not readily discriminated by a characteristic land cover pattern. For example, where the land cover is woodland, the land use may be timber production, grazing or nature conservation.

Land management practice means the approach taken to achieve a land use outcome - the 'how' of land use (eg cultivation practices, such as minimum tillage and direct drilling). Some land management practices, such as stubble disposal practices and tillage rotation systems, may be discriminated by characteristic land cover patterns and linked to particular issues.

Land cover refers to the physical surface of the earth, including various combinations of vegetation types, soils, exposed rocks and water bodies as well as anthropogenic elements, such as agriculture and built environments. Land cover classes can usually be discriminated by characteristic patterns using remote sensing.

Fractional cover is the fraction of an area (usually a pixel for the purposes of remote sensing) that is covered by a specific cover type such as green or photosynthetic vegetation, non-photosynthetic vegetation (i.e. stubble, senescent herbage, leaf litter) or bare soil/rock. Areas that have been burnt resulting in ash/blackened soil are considered as a 'bare soil' cover type.

Ground cover is a sub-component of land cover and can be used to infer land management practices. Ground cover is defined as the vegetation (living and dead), biological crusts and stone that is in contact with the soil surface. The non-woody ground cover such as crops, grass forbs and chenopod-type shrubs may change monthly rather than annually making this component a good indicator of land management performance. Ground cover is a sub-component of land cover and (from a remote sensing perspective) is the fractional cover of the non-woody understorey.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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