Towards operational validation of annual global land cover maps

N. Tsendbazar*, M. Herold, L. Li, A. Tarko, S. de Bruin, D. Masiliunas, M. Lesiv, S. Fritz, M. Buchhorn, B. Smets, R. Van De Kerchove, M. Duerauer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Annual global land cover maps (GLC) are being provided by several operational monitoring efforts. However, map validation is lagging, in the sense that the annual land cover maps are often not validated. Concurrently, users such as the climate and land management community require information on the temporal consistency of multi-date GLC maps and stability in their accuracy. In this study, we propose a framework for operational validation of annual global land cover maps using efficient means for updating validation datasets that allow timely map validation according to recommendations in the CEOS Stage-4 validation guidelines. The framework includes a regular update of a validation dataset and continuous map validation. For the regular update of a validation dataset, a partial revision of the validation dataset based on random and targeted rechecking (areas with a high probability of change) is proposed followed by additional validation data collection. For continuous map validation, an accuracy assessment of each map release is proposed including an assessment of stability in map accuracy addressing the user needs on the temporal consistency information of GLC map and map quality. This validation approach was applied to the validation of the Copernicus Global Land Service GLC product (CGLS-LC100). The CGLS-LC100 global validation dataset was updated from 2015 to 2019. The update was done through a partial revision of the validation dataset and an additional collection of sample validation sites. From the global validation dataset, a total of 40% (10% for each update year) was revisited, supplemented by a targeted revision focusing on validation sample locations that were identified as possibly changed using the BFAST time series algorithm. Additionally, 6720 sample sites were collected to represent possible land cover change areas within 2015 and 2019. Through this updating mechanism, we increased the sampling intensity of validation sample sites in possible land cover change areas within the period. Next, the dataset was used to validate the annual GLC maps of the CGLS-LC100 product for 2015–2019. The results showed that the CGLS-LC100 annual GLC maps have about 80% overall accuracy showing high temporal consistency in general. In terms of stability in class accuracy, herbaceous wetland class showed to be the least stable over the period. As more operational land cover monitoring efforts are upcoming, we emphasize the importance of updated map validation and recommend improving the current validation practices and guidelines towards operational map validation so that long-term land cover maps and their uncertainty information are well understood and properly used.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112686
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • Global land cover monitoring
  • Operational validation
  • Stability in product accuracy
  • Validation data update


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