Gross and net land cover changes in the main plant functional types derived from the annual ESA CCI land cover maps (1992–2015)

Land-use and land-cover change (LULCC) impacts local energy and water balance and contributes on global scale to a net carbon emission to the atmosphere. The newly released annual ESA CCI (climate change initiative) land cover maps provide continuous land cover changes at 300 m resolution from 1992 to 2015, and can be used in land surface models (LSMs) to simulate LULCC effects on carbon stocks and on surface energy budgets. Here we investigate the absolute areas and gross and net changes in different plant functional types (PFTs) derived from ESA CCI products. The results are compared with other datasets. Global areas of forest, cropland and grassland PFTs from ESA are 30.4, 19.3 and 35.7 million km$^2$ in the year 2000. The global forest area is lower than that from LUH2v2h (Hurtt et al., 2011), Hansen et al. (2013) or Houghton and Nassikas (2017) while cropland area is higher than LUH2v2h (Hurtt et al., 2011), in which cropland area is from HYDE 3.2 (Klein Goldewijk et al., 2016). Gross forest loss and gain during 1992–2015 are 1.5 and 0.9 million km$^2$ respectively, resulting in a net forest loss of 0.6 million km$^2$, mainly occurring in South and Central America. The magnitudes of gross changes in forest, cropland and grassland PFTs in the ESA CCI are smaller than those in other datasets. The magnitude of global net cropland gain for the whole period is consistent with HYDE 3.2 (Klein Goldewijk et al., 2016), but most of the increases happened before 2004 in ESA and after 2007 in HYDE 3.2. Brazil, Bolivia and Indonesia are the countries with the largest net forest loss from 1992 to 2015, and the decreased areas are generally consistent with those from Hansen et al. (2013) based on Landsat 30 m resolution images. Despite discrepancies compared to other datasets, and uncertainties in converting into PFTs, the new ESA CCI products provide the first detailed long-term time series of land-cover change and can be implemented in LSMs to characterize recent carbon dynamics, and in climate models to simulate land-cover change feedbacks on climate. The annual ESA CCI land cover products can be downloaded from (Land Cover Maps – v2.0.7; see details in Sect. 5). The PFT map translation protocol and an example in 2000 can be downloaded from The annual ESA CCI PFT maps from 1992 to 2015 at 0.5×0.5 resolution can also be downloaded from

Publication Date:
Jan 30 2018
Date Submitted:
Jun 28 2019
Earth System Science Data
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 Record created 2019-06-28, last modified 2019-08-05

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