About the GHSL

The basics knowledge needed to understand and use our data.

Image taken from the cover of the Atlas of the Human Planet 2016

Mission

The Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) project produces global spatial information about the human presence on the planet over time. This in the form of built-up maps, population density maps and settlement maps. This information is generated with evidence-based analytics and knowledge using new spatial data mining technologies.
The GHSL processing framework uses heterogeneous data including global archives of fine-scale satellite imagery, census data, and volunteered geographic information. The data is processed fully automatically and generates analytics and knowledge reporting objectively and systematically about the presence of population and built-up infrastructures.

The GHSL in brief

  • Produces global spatial information, evidence-based analytics and knowledge describing the human presence on the planet
  • Operates in an open and free data and methods access policy (open input, open method, open output)
  • Supported by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the DG for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) of the European Commission, together with the international partnership GEO Human Planet Initiative

Background

The GHSL are the core datasets used in the GEO Human Planet initiative, used to produce the Atlas of the Human Planet 2016. The GHSL concept was initialized by the JRC in 2010-2011.

GHSL activities are currently supported by the JRC scientific working plans in the frame of the JRC Directorate E “Space, Security & Migration”.

The JRC, together with the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) and Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space (DG DEFIS) are working towards a regular and operational monitoring of global built-up and population based on the processing of Sentinel Earth Observation data produced by European Copernicus space program.

At the JRC, the GHSL framework of data and tools supports the Knowledge Centres for Disaster Risk Management, Sustainable Development, Territorial Modelling, and Security & Migration. Moreover, the GHSL is one key test case contributing to the JRC Earth Observation and Social Sensing Big Data Pilot project in the frame of the JRC Text & Data Mining Competence Centre.

Partners

The GHSL manufacture is the result of a collaborative process between numerous individuals and institutions.

The GHSL profited from the close collaboration and the funding support of the Economic Analysis Unit of DG REGIO, European Commission. In particular Lewis Dijkstra and Hugo Poelman who contributed actively to this version of the GHSL.

The generation of the GHSL population data would not have been possible without the access to the data hosted by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) and the discussions with Robert Chen and Kytt MacManus.

In 2014, Joint Research Centre (JRC), organised the 1st Global Human Settlement Workshop, which led to the Manifesto for a Global Human Settlement Partnership. The participants of this workshop formed the core group of what is now the GEO Human Planet Initiative, which includes now more than 180 members from 100 different institutions all around the globe. The pre-releases data of the GHSL was shared among the GEO international partnership since 2014. Discussions with the members helped improving the quality of the GHSL significantly.