Oliveira, J; Campbell, EE; Lamparelli, RAC; Figueiredo, GKDA; Soares, JR; Jaiswal, D; Monteiro, LA; Vianna, MS; Lynd, LR; Sheehan, JJ (2020). Choosing pasture maps: An assessment of pasture land classification definitions and a case study of Brazil. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF APPLIED EARTH OBSERVATION AND GEOINFORMATION, 93, 102205.

Pasture land occupies extensive areas and is increasingly of interest for sustainable intensification, land use diversification, greenhouse gas emission mitigation, and bioenergy expansion. Accurate maps of pasture and other managed land covers are needed for monitoring, intercomparison, assessing potential uses, and planning. Yet, land maps can be generated from different types of classification datasets - i.e. as a land use or land cover type - as well as different sources. In this study our aim was to assess and compare land use and land cover definitions for pasture, and examine variability in the resulting pasture land classification maps. First, we conducted a review of pasture definitions in commonly used mapping databases. We then performed a case study involving Brazil, a dominant global producer of pasture-based livestock. Six geospatial databases were harmonized and compared to each other and to MODIS land cover for Brazil including the Cerrado and Amazon biomes, which are internationally recognized for their ecological value. Total pasture area estimates for Brazil ranged by a factor greater than four, from about 430,000 km(2) to over 1.7 million km(2). Our analysis showed high variability in pasture land maps depending on the definitions, methods and underlying datasets used to generate them. The results are illustrative of a symptomatic problem for all manage land datasets, demonstrating the need for land categories studies and geospatial data resources that fully define land terms and describe measurable management attributes. Additionally, the suitability of individual geospatial datasets for different types of land mapping must be better described and reported. These recommendations would help bring more consistency in the consideration of managed lands in research, reporting, and policy development, as demonstrated here for pasture land using six case study datasets from multiple sources.