Land cover and native vegetation mapping in Victoria

The newly developed Victorian Land Cover Time Series dataset provides valuable insights into land cover changes across the state.

It gives users a visual and analytical snapshot of the current and previous type of cover over different areas. That cover can include native forests, bushland, wetlands, farmland, land used for recreation, and built up areas, including towns and cities.

The extent of native vegetation is dynamic. The land cover dataset builds DELWP’s capacity to capture information of this nature, and to track changes in vegetation over time. Land cover information helps land managers:

  • Better understand the way land is used and managed across Victoria,
  • Improve the consistency, accuracy and repeatability of reporting on landscape scale change (a Biodiversity 2037 indicator, used in the State of the Environment 2018 report),
  • Link with existing biodiversity tools and systems, and
  • Help guide management actions for native vegetation and biodiversity programs, agriculture, forestry, carbon capture and storage and urban development.

Animation illustrating the seven land cover epochs (periods of time)

Legend showing the representative colours for each of the land cover classes

A new framework for land cover mapping

The Land Cover Time Series approach to mapping is multi-disciplinary combining:

  • Freely accessible remote sensed data,
  • Advanced computing techniques and processing, and
  • Existing ecological data and knowledge.

The dataset features spatial layers representing different time periods between 1987 and 2019. Each layer presents the most likely land cover class for that area. Victoria has 19 land cover classes. Each 25m pixel of the layers displays one of these classes.


The 19 target land cover classes include:Definition of each land cover class, Treed native vegetation (native tree cover); Scattered native trees (native trees scattered in paddocks and woodland along roadsides and streams); Native shrubland (native shrub cover); Native pasture / grassland (grasslands and pastures that are predominantly composed of indigenous species and/or low shenopod shrubs. Includes grasslands that have been derived through the clearing of tree and/or shrub cover; Natural low cover (environments that have low to negligible vegetation cover such as coastal foredunes, saline lake-beds, claypans and rock-outcrops); Wetland - perennial (persistent, typically herbaceous covered comprised of native plant species that are tolerant of inundation or waterlogging); Wetland - seasonal (seasonal or ephemeral, typically herbaceous cover comprised of native plant species that are tolerant of episodic inundation or waterlogging); Saltmarsh vegetation (intertidal wetlands supporting native vegetation that are not mangroves); Mangrove vegetation (intertidal native vegetation supporting Avicennia marina); Horticulture / irrigated pastures and crops (region of crop, pasture and parkland regularly subject to irrigation, particularly in dry months); Dryland cropping (regions that are regularly cropped and not irrigated); Exotic pasture/grassland (herbaceous pastures that are predominantly composed of non-indigenous species); Hardwood plantations (tree plantations predominantly Eucalyptus globulus); Conifer plantation (tree plantations principally Pinus radiata); Other exotic tree cover (non-native tree-cover including conifer windbreaks, willows along streams and rivers and varied ornamental plantings); Built environment (persistent unvegetated areas that are the result of commercial or industrial development); Urban area (the admixture of street, houses and gardens that characterises much of the medium to low density urban landscape typical of Australia cities); Disturbed ground (persistent unvegetated areas that are the result of anthropogenic activity other than urban development such as mining); Water (persistent surface water either fresh or saline – including rivers, lakes, dams, wetlands and the ocean)

Grassland restoration

Native grassland restoration (light green) at Mount Rothwell

Dam to wetland transition

Wetland restoration (turquoise) through draining of Lake Mokoan (blue)

Urban growth

Urban and associated built up growth (grey) around Geelong

Hardwood plantations in the south-west

Increase in hardwood plantations (maroon) in Victoria's south-west

Accessing and viewing the data

The Victorian Land Cover Time Series datasets, methodologies and summary by location statistics (examples) can be accessed via the following links:

NatureKit - DELWP's biodiversity web mapping and reporting tool (coming soon - August 2020)

Victorian Government Open Data OR Spatial Datamart Victoria - to download the land cover layers

Technical report (PDF, 3.0 MB) - for detailed information on the methodologies

Summary by location statistics    (Excel, 5.9 MB) - Interactive excel table providing land cover change highlights across Catchment Management Authority areas, Bioregions, Local Government Areas and Registered Aboriginal Party areas

For further information contact:

Page last updated: 14/09/20