Mapping land use

We map land use to measure greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use and forestry in New Zealand. This page explains how land use is mapped for reporting on greenhouse gas emissions.

Impact of land use on greenhouse gas emissions

Land use and changes in land use directly affect the exchange of greenhouse gases between land ecosystems and the atmosphere.

The Ministry for the Environment maps land use to enable:

  • the net greenhouse gas emissions from each land use to be calculated
  • the net greenhouse gas emissions from changes in land use to be calculated.

Land-use categories

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) countries are required to report greenhouse gas emissions or removals from land use for the following six categories for each year from 1990:

  • forest land
  • cropland
  • grassland
  • wetlands
  • settlements
  • other land.

Determining land-use categories

The Ministry uses satellite imagery and aerial photography to classify all the land in New Zealand (including offshore islands) into the UNFCCC land-use categories. We have created land-use maps as at:

  • 1990 (the reference year of the Kyoto Protocol and UNFCCC)
  • 2008 (the beginning of the first commitment period)
  • 2012 (the end of the first commitment period)
  • 2016 (the end of the second commitment period).

Land-use maps are produced to keep track of land-use change with a strong emphasis on monitoring change in forests, as this is where the most significant impacts on carbon stock change occur. These maps are used, together with carbon stock and carbon stock change estimates for each land-use category, to estimate net greenhouse gas emissions or removals for the land use and forestry sector.

The Ministry follows the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s good practice guidance for mapping procedures.

Email the Ministry for the Environment’s Carbon Sequestration Team for more information.

Find out more

Guidance the Ministry for the Environment uses when mapping land use.