[Tagging] natural=????

Christoph Hormann chris_hormann at gmx.de
Tue Sep 10 21:37:34 UTC 2013

On Tuesday 10 September 2013, Tod Fitch wrote:
> [...]
> And the Wikipedia page regarding alpine tundra affirms it:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpine_tundra
> But the closest looking tag I see at
> http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:natural seems to be
> natural=fell

I had looked at that as well some time ago and found the same.  
natural=grassland and natural=heath could be used in some cases but 
those are quite specific and only make sense if either grasses or woody 
plants are clearly the dominating vegetation.

> Fell appears to be a UK centric description for a subset of
> alpine tundra: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fell

natural=fell originally seems to have been introduced as a way of naming 
areas and not as a landcover tag.

> There are currently no natural=*alpine* tags and only a handful
> natural=tundra, the use of which seems to cover both alpine tundra
> (mountains in Colorado) and arctic tundra (northern Canada, etc.)
> without a way to distinguish which of the two are meant.
> What are the thoughts of extending the natural tag to include:
> natural=arctic_tundra, natural=alpine_tundra and, possibly,
> natural=antarctic_tundra

Differenciating between alpine and polar tundra, possibly even arctic 
and antarctic via tag is pointless - not to mention that there is no 
way to draw a clear line between the two (i.e. in polar mountain 
areas).  Although alpine and polar tundra ecosystems differ these 
differences are fairly subtle in a lot of cases.

The real problem about natural=tundra is that it is a very broad 
classification.  Essentially it starts at the treeline with often quite 
lush grass or woody vegetation and ends with scattered lichens.  In a 
way natural=tundra would be orthogonal to the existing natural=wood|
scrub|grassland|heath since it does not specify what grows there but 
instead says why it grows there (because it's beyond the alpine/arctic 
treeline).  In this way it would be similar to natural=wetland (or the 
infamous natural=desert).


Christoph Hormann

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