Land Use

Empirical View

Land Use over the Long-Run

The visualisation below shows human land use over the long-term (since 10,000 BC), and details the change in total land used for cropland, grazing land and built-up/urban area in hectares. This can also be viewed by select countries and all regions using the "change country/region" option below.

Click to open interactive version

Land Use of the World Today

The graphic below details the breakdown of global land allocation and use based on areal extent. Only 71 percent of Earth's land surface is defined as habitable. Humans use half of global habitable area for agricultural production (of the remainder, 37 percent is forested; 11 percent as shrubbery; and only one-percent is utilised as urban infrastructure).

More than three-quarters of our agricultural land is used for the rearing of livestock through a combination of grazing land and land used for animal feed production. Despite being dominant in land allocation for agriculture, meat and dairy products supply only 17, and 33 percent of global caloric and protein supply.

Land use graphic 01

Land Cover of the World Today

World map of the Earth's vegetation – NOAA1

World Map of the Earths vegetation – NOAA

Land area by cover type

The chart below shows the distribution of land by cover type, measured either as the percentage of total land area (in 'relative' mode), or in thousands of hectares by switching to 'absolute' mode. This can also be viewed for individual countries and regions.

Click to open interactive version

Change over Time

Estimated changes in land use, 1700-1995 – Lambin et al. (2001)2

Estimated changes in land use from 1700 to 1995 – Lambin et al. (2001)0

NASA published an animation of the planet's changing land cover between 2000 and 2013 here.

Greening of Sahel, 1982-1999 – Wikipedia3

Greening Sahel 1982-1999 – Wikipedia0

Data Quality & Definition

Animation of the changing land cover of the Earth - monthly global images from NASA Earth Observatory, 2004 – Wikipedia [NASA]4