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Land Use Data Directory

Everyone has the ability to influence land use, but in order to do this people need to understand what is happening and what they can do. Improving the availability of information will assist organisations and individuals in influencing land use in a positive manner, by informing debate and decisions regarding land and its use.

These pages will be developed to provide an on-line hub for key information and act as a portal to direct you to relevant land use information held on external websites.  If you have any suggestions for land use information to be signposted to or improvements to be made to the information hub please email.

Data Directory

Scotland's Environment Web provides an interactive tool to view datasets online along with providing a gateway to further data sources on the environment.  The website also hosts the State of the Environment Report.

On these pages you will find a basic set of spatial datasets and information on how to access the data.

Aimed at Local Authorities

This data directory is aimed primarily at local authorities wanting to develop their own land use frameworks, but also other public bodies, non-governmental organisations, and community initiatives.

Mapping Land Use

The Land Use Strategy aims to encourage and support sustainable land use. On a regional or local level, this could be achieved by looking at how land is currently being used, what benefits people are getting from the land, and where there are opportunities to increase those benefits. Spatial data can support these approaches by assessing ecosystem services and by identifying the most suitable locations for particular land uses.

About Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. Examples of ecosystem services include provisioning services such as food, water, timber, and fibre, regulating services that affect climate, floods, disease and water quality, and cultural services with recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual benefits. The term ‘services’ is usually used to encompass the tangible and intangible benefits that people obtain from ecosystems.

More information on ecosystem services and the ecosystem approach can be found below under Further Resources.

Spatial Datasets

Spatial data can be used to create a composite measure of ecosystem services provision. This data directory identifies a minimum set of key spatial datasets to help inform an ecosystem services assessment, or an ecosystems approach for land use. It also provides information on how to access the data. Any ecosystem services for which there are no obvious datasets available will be highlighted.

Find Datasets on Land Use and Ecosystem Services

The buttons below lead to tables of datasets which may help assess the different ecosystem services, and to some base maps. Most but not all datasets are free to use by the public sector.

 Provisioning Regulating Cultural    Basemaps

Directory Structure

The datasets are loosely organised by ecosystem services category they could inform. Please note that some datasets may be used to inform more than one ecosystem services category, and may not be listed under all categories.


This data directory provides links to datasets hosted by other organisations. We are not responsible for the accuracy and availability of the data.

Updates & Feedback

The data directory was last updated in March 2015. Contact us if you think there are any other datasets which should be included. We will consider suggestions on a quarterly basis to see whether and where to include them. Please provide us with the name of the dataset, a brief description, the owner, and a link. You can also contact us to report broken links and for any other feedback. Please mention the words "data directory" in the body of the email.

Ecosystem Services Classification

The ecosystem services categories are based on the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) which has no separate category for supporting ecosystem services - ecosystem services which are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services. Relevant datasets are integrated in the other categories. More information on ecosystem services classification and comprehensive lists of ecosystem services can be found below under Further Resources, in particular in the EKN publication.

Use of Proxies

None of the listed datasets represent maps of ecosystem services, they are information that feeds into an assessment of ecosystem services. For some ecosystem services, particularly in the cultural services category, there is little data available, so proxies (e.g. using abundance of terrestrial breeding birds as a proxy for biodiversity) are frequently used to map their distribution.

Further Resources

The resources below give detailed information and guidance about the concept of ecosystem services, mapping and classification of ecosystem services, and the ecosystems approach, which considers ecosystems and the services they provide, but also involves people.

Guidance Description
MAES 2014 report Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services. This report presents indicators that can be used to map and assess biodiversity, ecosystem condition and ecosystem services according to the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES v4.3). The report provides “working guidance” on suitable approaches for mapping and assessment based on spatial information and indicators.
National Ecosystem Approach Toolkit The National Ecosystem Approach Toolkit provides you with tools and experience to build the relationship with nature into your decisions in a transparent, participatory and evidence-driven way. Not only will these lead to better outcomes, it will allow you to demonstrate that the principles of the Ecosystem Approach have been built into your work.
Green infrastructure Making the most of communities’ natural assets: green infrastructure. An information note for Community Planning Partnerships on applying an ecosystems approach.
Examples Description
Ecosystem Service Mapping Gateway An Ecosystem Service Mapping Gateway has been developed by the NERC Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Directorate, with funding from Natural England. This map and database contains information on the growing number of ecosystem service mapping projects across the UK; however, not many in Scotland yet (2015).
ES on SEWeb There are plans to present Ecosystem Services maps on SEWeb. A first stage is due to be published by the end of March 2015. It will include an introduction to the ecosystems approach and case studies for examples of good practice.
Resource Description
UK NEA website The UK National Ecosystem Assessment provided the first analysis of the UK’s natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and our continuing economic prosperity. Its findings indicate that ecosystems and ecosystem services, and the ways people benefit from them, have changed markedly in the past 60 years, driven by changes in society. It also cites that the UK’s ecosystems are delivering some services well, but others are still in long-term decline.
EKN website The Ecosystems Knowledge Network is a resource for anyone wanting to share knowledge or learn about the practical benefits of the ecosystem approach to both people and nature. The ecosystem approach is a holistic and inclusive approach to looking after the natural environment. On this website, you will find resources that explain the ecosystem approach and show what it means in practice.
JNCC website The Joint Nature Conservation Committee's pages on ecosystem approach, ecosystem servcies mapping, and ecosystem valuation.
SG information note Applying an Ecosystems Approach to Land Use: Information Note (2011). This information note encourages greater application of an ecosystems approach in decision-making processes affecting land use.
SEWeb website

Scotland’s Environmental Web (SEWeb) provides a gateway to environmental information published by a range of bodies involved in protecting and improving Scotland’s environment. The website presents environmental information and data in an easily accessible form and adopts an innovative and dynamic approach to the provision of information.

Marine Scotland Interactive

A web store of themed data including renewables, monitoring and marine spatial planning.

National Marine Plan interactive

An interactive GIS-based tool allowing viewing of different types of information (as layers) at a scale of your choice. Where appropriate, links have also been provided to related parts of Scotland's Marine Atlas, updated graphs and data.

Registered users can create maps for printing, develop their own data layers and download certain data (subject to a licence agreement) and new data are regularly being added.

Classification Description
EKN publication on ES classification Classifying Ecosystem Services: An Ecosystems Knowledge Network Briefing Paper (2012) - This paper discusses whether a common list of services is needed which is sufficiently comprehensive to support a range of different applications, and whether, in drawing up this list, the different types of services can be defined clearly enough so that they can be easily understood by different stakeholder groups, as well as being useful for measurement purposes.


Some organisations have a central data download page for all the datasets they make available. Most, but not all of the websites listed below provide downloadable GIS datasets.

Data Download Sites Description
SSDI Metadata Catalogue Public sector organisations across Scotland are publishing their key spatial data sets and making the metadata available through the Scottish Spatial Discovery Infrastructure (SSDI). The SSDI Metadata Catalogue allows users to evaluate and use Scottish public sector spatial data. GIS data is available for many datasets, web mapping services (WMS) only for others.
SNH Natural Spaces Download a wide range of datasets including protected areas, habitats and species, landscape, open space and access. Data is available as ESRI Shapefiles or the OGC standard formats GML and KML.
FC Access and download a wide range of Forestry Commission GIS datasets including National Forest Inventory, National Forest Estate Boundaries, Stock and Roads, Grants and Regulations data, Felling Licences, Scottish Native Woodlands.
CEH The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is a major custodian of environmental datasets, many of which can be accessed under the terms of data licence agreements. Details of CEH's key licensed hydrological datasets and land cover datasets can be found here.
CEH Information Gateway The CEH Information Gateway is the tool for finding, viewing and accessing data resources held by the Environmental Information Data Centre and other data providers in the UK and beyond. At the heart of the Gateway is the Data Catalogue - a repository of records that describe the nature and scope of CEH data resources. Users of this Gateway can discover CEH data resources, view details about each resource, view spatial data using a map viewer, create a personal account, and order data.
SEWeb Discover Data SEWeb Discover Data provides access to a range of data visualisation applications. These applications present data in an interactive format that helps users to analyse the data set to extract useful information. Live links are maintained to the datasets, automated updates are made on a regular basis, therefore the most up to date data is always present. The data tables, graphs and images shown in the application can be exported as CSV files, images or PDF documents.


Mapping is only one way of many to assess ecosystem services. Survey and statistical data are additional resources, which may be updated more frequently than spatial data.

Surveys and Statistics Description
SESO Scottish Environment Statistics Online (SESO) is a web-based dissemination tool designated as official statistics. The datasets held in SESO are updated whenever new data becomes available, in line with the constant changes that take place to the environment. These datasets provide, in one place, a wide variety of information on drivers and indicators to the state of Scotland’s environment.
SoE 2014; Data on SEWeb The State of the Environment (SoE) Report provides an assessment of Scotland’s environment and how it is changing. It uses the most recent data available from a wide range of sources.
SHS The Scottish Household Survey (SHS) is designed to provide accurate, up-to-date information about the characteristics, attitudes and behaviour of Scottish households and individuals on a range of issues. SHS data for secondary use can be made available.