Outlining where humans live, the World Settlement Footprint 2015

Sci Data. 2020 Jul 20;7(1):242. doi: 10.1038/s41597-020-00580-5.


Human settlements are the cause and consequence of most environmental and societal changes on Earth; however, their location and extent is still under debate. We provide here a new 10 m resolution (0.32 arc sec) global map of human settlements on Earth for the year 2015, namely the World Settlement Footprint 2015 (WSF2015). The raster dataset has been generated by means of an advanced classification system which, for the first time, jointly exploits open-and-free optical and radar satellite imagery. The WSF2015 has been validated against 900,000 samples labelled by crowdsourcing photointerpretation of very high resolution Google Earth imagery and outperforms all other similar existing layers; in particular, it considerably improves the detection of very small settlements in rural regions and better outlines scattered suburban areas. The dataset can be used at any scale of observation in support to all applications requiring detailed and accurate information on human presence (e.g., socioeconomic development, population distribution, risks assessment, etc.).