Land classification systems

Two classification systems have been developed to help understand New Zealand’s natural environments and how they are changing over time. The Land Cover Database identifies land cover (what is growing on the ground or what feature covers the ground), whereas Land Environments of New Zealand uses 15 climate, landform and soil factors that are considered likely to influence the distribution of animal or plant species.

This page provides information about these two land classification systems.

Land Cover Database

The New Zealand Land Cover Database (LCDB) is a digital map of New Zealand’s land surface. It is created by grouping together similar classes which can be identified in satellite images.

Being digital, it can be used to make different maps. As a map, it can be combined with other geographic information to reveal new information on patterns and trends of land use and land cover.

The Land Cover Database contains snapshots of land cover over several dates which are incorporated into the data layer. It provides the basis for better resource management decisions, more effective use of natural resources, and improved environmental management.

The Land Cover Database begins with a satellite image (top). Polygons define the edges of similar land cover types (middle). Polygons are assigned LCDB values and stored in a spatial database for mapping (bottom).

The Land Cover Database begins with a satellite image

Where you can get the Land Cover Database

The Land Cover Database is available for downloading from the Landcare Research LRIS portal.

Land Environments of New Zealand

The Land Environments of New Zealand (LENZ) classification maps areas of the New Zealand landscape that have a similar environmental character. It is used to identify areas that are similar, regardless of where they occur (that is, which areas are not necessarily the same in all respects, but are likely to contain similar species, and have similar biological interactions and processes).

This classification differs from the Land Cover Database (LCDB) series. The LCDB series simply identifies land cover, whereas Land Environments of New Zealand uses 15 climate, landform and soil factors that are considered likely to influence the distribution of animal or plant species. Based on these factors, land environments can be used as a surrogate for ecosystems.

Land Environments of New Zealand can be used at four levels of detail to map 20, 100, 200, or 500 land environments. The higher levels provide greater detail by showing more land environments. The level of 20 land environments is used to report on biodiversity indicators.

Land Environments of New Zealand has been produced in partnership with Landcare Research New Zealand and consists of four products.

  • Two datasets with detailed information: one contains the classification data layers, the other the underlying climate, soils and landform variables that make up the classification system.
  • A full colour atlas for general use that presents Levels I and II of the classification and describes the what, where, when, who and how of the system. It also includes six example case studies for conservation and resource management applications and Level II maps of the North and South Islands.
  • A technical guide that describes Levels II, III and IV of the classification, including its construction and guidelines for its electronic use in a geographic information system.

Where you can get Land Environments of New Zealand

  • Download the LENZ classification layers from the MfE Data Service.
  • The underlying layers are available from Landcare Research's LENZ page.
  • The full colour atlas is available from bookstores (published by David Bateman Ltd, RRP $49.99, ISBN 1-86953-522-7).

Find out more about LENZ

For more information on LENZ visit the Landcare Research's LENZ page.