Mini Lesson/Activity

Comparing Global Land Use Over Time: Student Activity

Mini Lesson

These data represent the percent of land cover which is considered to be primary land cover for the years 1900 and 2100 at a spatial resolution of approximately 50 km. The data for 1900 are historical. The data for 2100 are projections from 2006-2100 using four Integrated Assessment Model (IAM) scenarios with respect to changes in Earth's energy budget.

Primary land cover is natural vegetation that has never been disturbed by human activities such as agriculture or wood harvesting. Secondary land cover is also natural vegetation that is recovering from human activities. It can be very young or as mature as primary land cover. Even if it is mature, it is not considered primary because it has been disturbed and has recovered.

The images below show the percent of land cover which is primary. Examine the images to see the projected differences between 1900 and 2100.  What differences do you see?

Primary Landcover 1900Primary Landcover 2100

1. Which color shows the most primary land cover percentage?   Least?

2. Where in the world would you expect to have the most percentage of primary land cover in 1900?  Least?

3. Describe where you would expect to find the most percentage of primary land cover in 2100. Least?

4. Examine the images of Africa and answer the questions.

Primary Land Cover 1900 and 2100 Africa

Use the writing technique to write a caption for the images of Africa.

  1. What do you observe in Africa for 1900?
  2. What do you observe in Africa for 2100?
  3. What are the differences? 
  4. What do these differences signify?
  5. Write the caption.

Teacher Note

Teachers, these mini lessons/student activities are perfect "warm up" tasks that can be used as a hook, bellringer, exit slip, etc.

Teachers who are interested in receiving the answer key, please contact MND from your school email address at  We verify that requestors are teachers prior to sending access to the answer keys as we’ve had many students try to pass as teachers to gain access. To receive the keys please provide the following:

  1. The link to the school/institution’s teacher directory where you are employed so we can verify that you are a teacher
  2. Ensure that the school email address is provided in your response as we are unable to send to personal email accounts


Chini, L.P., G.C. Hurtt, and S. Frolking. 2014. Harmonized Global Land Use for Years 1500 – 2100, V1. Data set. Available on-line [] from Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA.

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