BIOPRESS (‘Linking Pan-European Land Cover Change to Pressures on Biodiversity’), a European Commission funded ‘Global Monitoring for Environment and Security’ project, produced land cover change information (1950—2000) for Europe from aerial photographs and tested the suitability of this for monitoring habitats and biodiversity. The methods and results related to the land cover change work are summarized. Changes in land cover were established through 73 window and 59 transect samples distributed across Europe. Although the sample size was too small and biased to fully represent the spatial variability observed in Europe, the work highlighted the importance of method consistency, the choice of nomenclature and spatial scale. The results suggest different processes are taking place in different parts of Europe: the Boreal and Alpine regions are dominated by forest management; abandonment and intensification are mainly encountered in the Mediterranean; urbanization and drainage are more characteristic of the Continental and Atlantic regions.