On the Land Use/Cover Area Frame Survey (LUCAS) in Latvia
The first pilot projects “Land Use/Cover Area Frame Survey (LUCAS)” in the Member States of the European Union were implemented in 2001 and 2003. Latvia took part in the LUCAS project within the framework of the Phare Multi-Beneficiary Statistical Co-0peration Programme in 2005 for the first time.
Twelve EU countries this year will conduct a LUCAS survey according to a new methodology for the analysis and improvement of which the results of the Latvian survey have also been used.
The objective of LUCAS is to make early estimates of sown areas under crops, to obtain qualitative data on the land use, coverage and changes as well as information characterising the environment in the EU member countries as a whole.
During the implementation of the project work was carried out in three main stages.
As a result of the two-stage sampling and stratification made by Eurostat on the basis of orthophotographic maps of the State Land Service of Latvia, 4058 points were established, which were then visited by the surveyors. These points were selected in such a way as to be located both on the arable land, grassland, perennial plantations, forests and water bodies. It was assumed that a point represented a circle with a radius of 1.5 m on the arable land and with 20 m on other areas.
The next stage was data collection from these circles. 17 surveyors using the GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers and orthophotographs visited the points according to the co-ordinates that were established previously and corresponded to these points; they classified land coverage in the points and recorded the type of land use by a specified nomenclature as well as photographed the landscape. By revisiting these points after a lengthier period of time it is feasible to see changes in the land use and the surrounding environment.
The last stage was the compilation of the information, its verification and transmission to the Statistical Office of the European Communities where statistical early estimates were made and environment-characterising photographs selected.
In the course of project implementation 117 points or 2.9% turned out to be inaccessible and were photo-interpreted but 26.8% of the points were observed from a distance of 100 m or more. Since a motor vehicle was needed to reach the points, the main problem turned out to be the roads, which were of a very bad quality and impassable. Especially in the country’s eastern region the roads delineated on the maps were practically non-existent. Access to the points was likewise hampered by the network of ditches, dense forests and areas overgrown with hog-weed.
The next problem encountered was the fact that GPS under the dense foliage of the trees did not detect the satellite signals so orientation was hampered.
Since last year the spring was very late and cereal growth was delayed it was very difficult to classify them by crop.
In order to apply the obtained knowledge to more precise early estimates of sown areas under crops, a higher number of points should be surveyed under the conditions that exist in Latvia. It is noteworthy, however, that the costs of the project are high and in 2007 the European Commission will take a decision on the further development of LUCAS when the results of the 2006 survey are compiled.
Prepared by the Agricultural Statistics Section