The New Zealand Land Use and Carbon Analysis System (LUCAS) is a significant programme of work. It enables New Zealand to meet its international reporting and accounting obligations for the provision a transparent, complete and accurate operational Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system. LUCAS has been designed to integrate and manage national coverage of historical and current Land Use Mapping (LUM), including the national forest inventory, satellite imagery, and a national Green House Gas (GHG) inventory, all delivered to comply with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) The LUCAS system has recently been audited as part of the United Nations in-country review of New Zealand’s 1990-2008 Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

User Need

The carbon accounting system within LUCAS focuses principally on carbon inventory and modelling in natural forest, planted forest and soils. A first priority was to develop sound techniques for collecting land use data, and then to work out how to calculate the carbon values for each of the five carbon pools (above ground biomass, below ground biomass, dead wood, litter, and solid organic matter) The defined methodology had to meet the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) good practice guidelines.

LiDAR Analysis
Figure: LiDAR Analysis


NSG NZ was contracted by the Ministry of the Environment to develop the various geospatial technology solutions required to support LUCAS.

The geospatial components of LUCAS are:

  • Land Use Mapping (LUM), for data editing, maintenance and management of satellite imagery, LiDAR, Aerial Photography and visual interpretation data
  • QA-QC, to facilitate the verification of LUM classifications
  • Spatial Gateway, to facilitate the validation and versioning of all LUM data, prior to Core Geospatial Database load
  • Summary Calculation Application, to calculate and provide reports for Inventory and Kyoto International review
  • Internet and Extranet data viewer, to provide visualisation of data and resulting analysis

A key element of LUCAS is the measurement and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions and removals arising from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities.

LUCAS Land Use Map
Figure: LUCAS Land Use Map


New Zealand has implemented a system that includes the analysis of satellite imagery and aerial photography for monitoring purposes, whilst adhering to the specific study commitment period for Kyoto reporting. New Zealand is recognised as the first country worldwide to implement a LiDAR survey to support the verification and auditability of the system to support UNFCCC requirements. LUCAS calculates the amount of carbon stored in forests and soils and how these carbon stocks change with land use. A carbon calculation engine determines carbon value per plot. The total carbon per plot is modeled and regression analysis is used to estimate total carbon and the carbon pool of the region and of the nation. Carbon calculations are fine-tuned for quality assurance by using an adjustment model. LUCAS generates:

  • Summary calculations combined with carbon and non-carbon data obtained from plot surveys to determine carbon and non-carbon stock and change
  • Land use change assessments combined with summary calculations as a basis for inventory reporting
  • Carbon stocks and change for various land uses by pool derived from models
  • Emissions and removals calculated from carbon data and area data information in the geodatabase
  • Non C02 emissions for limiting and biomass burning
  • Reports for inventory and Kyoto reporting.


The 2010 annual submission included a number of improvements in the LULUCF sector. It was the first submission where LUCAS was used for reporting on the LULUCF sector. To quote from the UNFCCC report, “The Expert Review team (ERT) acknowledges the contribution of LUCAS in improving the LULUCF reporting under the Convention and the reporting of afforestation, reforestation and deforestation under the Kyoto Protocol”.