Nature and the environment
arealstat, Land use and land cover, areasArea , Nature and the environment

Land use and land cover



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Key figures

1.7 %

of Norway is built-up

Land cover by category. Counties. Per cent.
Per cent of county's total area
Built-up areaAgricultural landForestOpen firm groundWetlandBare rock, gravel and blockfieldsPermanent snow and glaciersInland waters
Sogn og Fjordane1.03.425.644.71.414.44.85.3
Møre og Romsdal2.03.431.340.94.312.90.63.7
Sør-Trøndelag (-2017)1.73.736.
Nord-Trøndelag (-2017)1.12.441.833.
Troms - Romsa0.80.827.547.33.414.90.84.0
Finnmark - Finnmárku0.30.225.752.

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Table 1 
Land use in Norway. Country. Square kilometers. Per cent.

Land use in Norway. Country. Square kilometers. Per cent.
Km²Per cent
Corrected 4 September 2017
Built up areas in total5 440100.0
Residential areas1 26623.3
Recreational facilities4458.2
Built-up areas for agriculture and fishing5369.9
Industrial, commercial and service areas4378.0
Transport, telecommunications and technical infrastructure2 23141.0
Other built up areas5279.7

Table 2 
Land cover by category. Country. Square kilometers. Per cent.

Land cover by category. Country. Square kilometers. Per cent.
Km²Per cent
Total323 780100.0
Built-up area5 4401.7
Agricultural land11 1423.4
Forest121 05337.4
Open firm ground121 90637.7
Wetland17 3695.4
Bare rock, gravel and blockfields23 9887.4
Permanent snow and glaciers2 7390.8
Inland waters20 1426.2

Table 3 
Land use in Norway. Counties. Per cent.

Land use in Norway. Counties. Per cent.
Per cent of county's built-up area
Residential areasRecreational facilitiesBuilt-up areas for agriculture and fishingIndustrial, commercial and service areasTransport, telecommunications and technical infrastructureOther built-up areas
Corrected 4 September 2017
Sogn og Fjordane15.
Møre og Romsdal24.
Troms - Romsa21.
Finnmark - Finnmárku16.96.84.512.051.48.4

About the statistics

The statistics describe land use and land cover in Norway. Areas that are built-up are classified according to usage, while non-built-up areas are classified according to land cover.


Definitions of the main concepts and variables

Land use - Land use describes built-up areas by socio-economic purpose, and covers for example areas used for dwellings, business, recreation or roads.

Land cover - Land cover is the observed (bio)physical cover on the earth's surface.

Built - up area / site - All types of buildings, structures and permanently sealed surfaces and associated areas.

Non - built - up area - Areas/regions without a permanently built-up surface, including cultivated land.


Standard classifications

Classification of land use and land cover

Administrative information

Name and topic

Name: Land use and land cover
Topic: Nature and the environment

Next release

Responsible division

Division for Natural Resources and Environmental Statistics

Regional level

Municipalities, counties, country

Frequency and timeliness


International reporting

Not relevant


The maps are stored as spatial data sets and can be used for other analyzes as required.


Background and purpose

The first area accounting system of Norway was published in 1981. Aerial photos were used for interpreting land use and land cover. The method was time consuming and was abandoned after the test period.

The establishment of the National register of Ground, Addresses and Buildings (GAB) gave new possibilities for land use statistics. Methods were developed and statistics produced by Engebretsen (1989, 1993).

Automatic digital methods for the delimitation of urban settlements were conducted (Dysterud et al. 1999) and methodical studies of land use statistics were carried out (Engelien 2000, Bloch 2002). In 2005 Land use in urban settlements, based on point datasets and buffer methods, were published. This attempt was not repeated.

By 2011 the available data and the method of delimiting areas had improved immensely, and the method described below was developed. The most important improvement was the use of property boundaries from the Cadastral register and the nation wide land resource map (AR-STAT) from the Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute. Statistics on Land use in urban settlements based on theese accurate data was first published in 2011, then yearly since 2013.

Users and applications

The statistics is mainly used by civil administration (ministries, directorates, county- and municipality administrations) as well as for research purposes.

Equal treatment of users

No external users have access to the statistics and analyses before they are published and accessible simultaneously for all users on ssb.no at  8 am. Prior to this, a minimum of three months' advance notice is given inthe Statistics Release Calendar. This is one of Statistics Norway’s key principles for ensuring that all users are treated equally.

Coherence with other statistics

The statistics area based on the same maps used for the Land use statistics for Norway. Several other statistics are based on the same maps.

Legal authority

Register information. Statistics Act § 3.2

EEA reference

Not relevant



The statistics include all of Norway’s municipalities and Svalbard.

Data sources and sampling

The land use and land cover delimitation includes multiple data sources, the most important are:

  • land resource map, AR-STAT, from the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (former: the Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute).
  • buildings and property boundaries from the Cadastre (at the National Mapping Authority).
  • various data from the public map database (FKB).
  • roads from the National roads database - Vbase.

Collection of data, editing and estimations

Based on maps, registers and the use of GIS.

Data revised by owners of the registers, e.g. Statistics Norway and Norwegian Mapping Authorities.

Several digital maps are processed in a GIS-system and classified according to the Classification of land use and land cover. Automatic routines for delimiting and classifying areas has been developed.

The nation wide land resource map ( AR-STAT) from the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research forms the basis of the statistics "map". Built-up elements are placed higher in a hierarchy as shown below:

  1. Road
  2. Railway
  3. Rivers and lakes
  4. Airports
  5. Greenhouses classified as cultivated land
  6. Buffered buildings on parcels found in FKB land use
  7. FKB land use
  8. Built-up properties or shares of properties
  9. Buffered buildings
  10. Sports- and recreational areas
  11. Data from N50 land cover
  12. Parking areas
  13. Ports
  14. AR-STAT

The finished map for statistics is projected from WGS84 UTM 33 to ETRS89-LAEA, before areas are calculated and statistics assembled.

For Svalbard

The data sources used for Norway’s mainland are not available for Svalbard. A vegetation map from NINA is used as a base, built-up elements from a technical map and buildings from the cadastre are placed higher in the hierarchy. There are no property boundaries on Svalbard.

Seasonal adjustment

Not relevant


Not relevant

Comparability over time and space

The statistics are based on automatic processing of registers and map data bases. The data sources are built up according to national standards, however the interpretations of the standards might differ among municipalities. The completeness in the scope of mapped objects might also differ. This could affect the results, but all in all the results are considered to be comparable from place to place.

For all data sources there will be a time lag from changes in land use appear in reality until they are registered in maps and registries. As long as the time lag is constant it should not affect the result to much.

The numbers for Svalbard are based on different maps and the methods diverge from those used for Norway’s mainland. The lack of property boundaries at Svalbard leads to all buildings being buffered, they are therefore assigned less space than similar buildings on the mainland. For natural resources, the statistics are based on vegetation maps with classes that are not directly comparable with the classes in the Standard classification of land for statistical purposes.

Accuracy and reliability

Sources of error and uncertainty

The quality of the statistics is highly dependent on the quality of the contents of the Cadastre and various digital maps.

The land cover class ´´Open firm ground´´ in AR-STAT can refer to both built-up and natural areas. The combination with other data sets, like the building register, should assure that the areas are confirmed as built-up. However, in cases where areas are used for storage or industry, but there are no buildings, the areas might appear as undeveloped.


Not relevant