[Tagging] natural=????

Christoph Hormann chris_hormann at gmx.de
Wed Sep 11 15:35:42 UTC 2013

On Wednesday 11 September 2013, Tod Fitch wrote:
> I am not convinced that tundra is orthogonal to
> wood/shrub/grassland/heath as those are also very broad
> classifications. Is that wood dense or openly spaced trees? Are they
> deciduous or evergreen? Are those shrubs small or tall? What is your
> judgement of small or large? Is that hillside of live oak plants
> better described as shrubs (heath) or a trees (wood)?

I did not want to judge on the merits of any of those taggings.  I just 
wanted to point out that characterizing something as tundra requires a 
somewhat more abstract understanding of the ecosystem than 
wood/shrub/grassland/heath.  There is nothing wrong about this as long 
as the basis of this classification is verifiable. There are certainly 
difficult cases (especially in dry mountain areas) but the normal 
situation is that there is a fairly clear tree line and that tundra 
starts where the trees end.  And you are right that tundra is still 
foremost a vegetation characterization so in a way also similar to 

The situation with deserts is different since here the lack of a clearly 
defined edge is the normal situation (exceptions are when the desert 
edges to water or to human use land).

So although the wish to tag something as natural=desert is 
understandable - there are many regions most people would characterize 
primarily as desert - there is simply no way with the current OSM data 
model to properly map deserts.  But i agree that there is a lack of 
established taggings for xeromorph vegetation which might explain some 
uses of natural=desert.


Christoph Hormann

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