LUCAS: Land Use and Coverage Area frame Survey

Following a decision of the European Parliament, the European Statistical Office (EUROSTAT) in close cooperation with the Directorate General responsible for Agriculture and the technical support of the JRC, is organising regular, harmonised surveys across all Member States to gather information on land cover and land use. This survey is known as LUCAS (Land Use/Cover Area frame statistical Survey). The name reflects the methodology used to collect the information. Estimates of the area occupied by different land use or land cover types are computed on the basis of observations taken at more than 250,000 sample points throughout the EU rather than mapping the entire area under investigation. By repeating the survey every few years, changes to land use can be identified.

In 2009, the European Commission extended the periodic Land Use/Land Cover Area Frame Survey (LUCAS) to sample and analyse the main properties of topsoil in 23 Member States of the European Union (EU). This topsoil survey represents the first attempt to build a consistent spatial database of the soil cover across the EU based on standard sampling and analytical procedures, with the analysis of all soil samples being carried out in a single laboratory. Approximately 20,000 points were selected out of the main LUCAS grid for the collection of soil samples. A standardised sampling procedure was used to collect around 0.5 kg of topsoil (0-20 cm). The samples were dispatched to a central laboratory for physical and chemical analyses.

Subsequently, Malta and Cyprus provided soil samples even though the main LUCAS survey was not carried out on their territories. Cyprus has adapted the sampling methodology of LUCAS-Topsoil for (the southern part of the island) while Malta adjusted its national sampling grid to correspond to the LUCAS standards. Bulgaria and Romania have been sampled in 2012. However, the analysis is ongoing and the results are not included in this data collection. The final database contains 19,967 geo-referenced samples distributed in 25 countries. The data are freely available and can be downloaded after prior registration from the Data section.

The report "LUCAS Topsoil Survey: methodology, data and results" provides a detailed insight to the design and methodology of the data collection and laboratory analysis.

All samples have been analysed for the percentage of coarse fragments, particle size distribution (% clay,silt and sand content), pH (in CaCl2 and H2O), organic carbon (g/kg), carbonate content (g/kg), phosphorous content (mg/kg), total nitrogen content (g/kg), extractable potassium content (mg/kg) , cation exchange capacity (cmol(+)/kg) and multispectral properties.

Fig. 1: LUCAS Soil workflow from sampling to database generation

While the LUCAS approach is designed for monitoring land use/land cover change, potential bias in the sampling design may not necessarily capture all soil characteristics in a country. Finally, a customised application has been developed for web browsers that allow users to view and query the LUCAS dataset in a variety of ways. 

LUCAS 2015

The LUCAS 2015 the LUCAS soil survey targeted physicochemical properties, including pH, organic carbon, nutrient concentrations and cation exchange capacity. Analyses of samples collected during 2015 are ongoing and data will be available at the middle of 2018. The latest LUCAS survey was undertaken in 2015 and covered the 28 EU Member States (MS). In 2015, sampling was expanded to cover locations at altitudes above 1000 m. Furthermore, the geographical extent was extended to Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Switzerland. Approximately 26 000 locations were selected. Because of technical and environmental issues, however, samples were actually taken in about 22,000 locations (over 23 000 if we consider countries outside the EU). Electrical conductivity was added to the laboratory analysis.

LUCAS 2018

In 2018, the LUCAS Soil survey will include the additional analyses (components 2, 3 and 4) for the first time: a) Bulk density (i.e. weight of dry soil in a given soil volume). b) Soil biodiversity c) Visual assessment of soil erosion and d) Measurement of the thickness of the organic horizon in organic-rich soil.

Soil biodiversity analysis: The most extensive EU assessment of soil biodiversity, based on DNA metabarcoding will be included as part of the LUCAS Soil survey. For this, 1000 points were selected. Analysis will target the following attributes: Bacteria and Archaea (16S rDNA), Fungi (ITS), Eukaryotes (18S rDNA), Microfauna (nematodes), Mesofauna (arthropods), Macrofauna (earthworms), Metagenomics.

Bulk density will be measured at 9000 points. Points were selected from the total set based on the heterogeneity of soil texture and organic carbon content, land use and land cover, topography and soil type. A CLHS approach was used to select candidate points, as for the biodiversity. Bulk density data points coincided with soil biodiversity points to explore possible correlation between these properties.

Visual assessment of erosion.Surveyors will provide a qualitative assessment of soil erosion by indicating the type of erosion (i.e. sheet, rill, gully, mass movement, re-deposition and wind erosion), and the distance and direction from the LUCAS point, together with an estimate of the number of rills or gullies observed.

Measurement of thickness of organic horizon in organic-rich soil. The thickness of the organic horizon in effectively or potentially organic-rich soil will be measured at 1470 locations.

Use of LUCAS topsoil database

The LUCAS 2009 topsoil database is available for download since September 2013. This database has extensively used for modelling purposes and the development or validation of ten datasets in European scale: Soil Organic carbon content in Europe, Multispectral reflectance data in EU soil, Soil erodibility (K-factor), Soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks, Soil water erosion, Physical properties, Threats to soil biodiversity in EU, wind erosion modelling, N2O emissions in EU and future SOC stocks.

The LUCAS topsoil dataset and the derived products have been downloaded more than 4,500 times from the European Soil Data Centre (ESDAC) during the period (Sep 2013 - Sep 2017). The LUCAS Soil dataset has a wide range of potential applications: a) Modelling of soil-related properties at the continental scale. b) Assessing the contribution of the soil component to regulation c) of large-scale environmental phenomena such as climate change and nutrient cycles. d) Validation of small-scale models involving soil properties e) Comparison and checking of the quality of national and regional soil inventories. f) Assessing the ecosystem services provided by soil g) Evaluation of the effect of soil on key economic activities such
as agriculture.

A post assessment survey of LUCAS data was conducted in order to evaluate the data utility, the scale and te publication outputs. Overall, statistics on LUCAS Soil download and use emphasize the value of such a resource. Continuous development of the LUCAS Soil database and derived datasets will ensure further growth of potentially interested users and thus their application in new fields of research.

Fig. 2: Numbers of downloads of LUCAS 2009–2012 point data (a) per country and (b) per type of organization. Values indicate the number of download(s). (c) A word cloud analysis (Wordle, 2017) of replies regarding data use. The analysis shows the 100 most common words used by the respondents.Word size is proportional to the number of repetitions. (d) Percentages of the LUCAS use potential. In 2015, a post-download questionnaire was sent to all users. Respondents were asked to provide information on three aspects: (i) scale at which data were used, (ii) utility of the data and (iii) publication output associated with LUCAS.


LUCAS in Eurostat Website

Documentation - Publications

The documentation associated to the 2009 LUCAS Soil data is available from the report: 
- Tóth, G., Jones, A., Montanarella, L. (eds.) 2013. LUCAS Topsoil Survey. Methodology, data and results. JRC Technical Reports. Luxembourg. Publications Office of the European Union, EUR26102 – Scientific and Technical Research series – ISSN 1831-9424 (online); ISBN 978-92-79-32542-7; doi: 10.2788/97922"

(New 18 October 2018)    Anticipating the release of the 2015 LUCAS Soil data,  the following JRC Technical Report (from 2018) is already available; it is an evaluation of results from LUCAS Soil Component survey of 2009, 2012 and 2015 for consistency and comparability of repeated and new samples of the soil organic carbon analytical parameter. "Data Evaluation of LUCAS Soil Component Laboratory Data for Soil Organic Carbon (Survey periods 2009, 2012 and 2015)", by Roland Hiederer.

Peer-reviewed publications relevant to the data:


Poster Poster

Find below the distribution of 19.967 points in the 25 Countries (LUCAS 2009):

Country No of Points
AT 420
BE  71
CY  90 
CZ  431
DE 1947
DK  232 
EE  220
ES  2696
FI  1716 
FR  2952 
GR  491 
HU  497 
IE  233 
IT  1333
LT  356 
LV  349
NL  211
PL  1648 
PT  476 
SE  2696
SI  112
SK  268 
UK  942


Displaying 1 - 3 of 3 |

Title: Copper distribution in topsoils in the European Union
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data
Registration requested: Request Form
Year: 2018
Publisher: Joint Research Centre of the European Commission

Title: SPADE/M
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Point Data
Year: 2004

Title: LUCAS 2009 TOPSOIL data
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Point Data
Registration requested: Request Form
Year: 2013