Land-use change may imply land-cover change that will affect climate in different ways.

The LandCover6k Working Group is a collaborative effort of paleoecologists, modelers, archaeologists, historians, and geographers, supported by PAGES. landCover6k is working to produce global maps of land use and land cover based on synthesized archaeological and paleoecological data pertaining to designated time-slices throughout the Holocene, from the advent of farming to the industrial revolution (Gaillard et al. 2018).

The goal of PAGES’ LandCover6k Working Group is to use pollen, archaeological and historical data to provide information on past land cover and land use change that can be used to evaluate and improve Anthropogenic Land-Cover Change (ALCC) scenarios for palaeoclimate modelling and the study of land-use as a climate forcing.The latter will improve our understanding of past land cover-climate interactions and the effect of current and future land-use change on tomorrow’s climate. LandCover6k will produce datasets on past land-cover and land-use on continental and global spatial scales that are useful for climate modeling studies on land-use as a climate forcing.

One of the challenges of historical land use mapping is a lack of consistent language for classifying historical and ancient land use. Within the goals of the working groupthe creation of a shared, consistent language of classification has been key. The system that has emerged is hierarchical, flexible, and expandable. Categories are divided into levels termed ‘LU’ (land-use) levels 1-3. Land use classifications necessarily simplify complex systems. It is recognised that is that the boundaries between some  land use classes can be ambiguous. This is incorporated in the LU2 categorisations, highlighting times and places where land use practices straddled higher classifications, recognizing that neither is necessarily exclusive. It is also important to stress that this land use classification pertains specifically to land rather than people. The specific cultural identity or identities of people in the past who practiced some form of land use is not here at issue.The classification system has been through various iterations, and the version presented here is an update of the preliminary version previously published by our working group (Morrison et al. 2018). While the rationale behind the categories remains the same and we hope to have preserved the allowances for regional examples expressed by the LC6K membership, the current system has been modified in accordance with issues raised during testing of the database itself. 

More information on LandCover6k can be found at the LandCover6k webpage:

More information on PAGES can be found at their webpage:


Land Use Classification (Figure by O.Boles; citation: LC6K Working Group, in prep.)