Land cover change is a pressing environmental issue, acting as both a cause and a consequence of climate change. Reliable observations are crucial to monitor and understand the ongoing processes of deforestation, desertification, urbanization, land degradation, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functions, water and energy management, and the influence of land-cover changes on the physical climate system itself. A number of disciplines (i.e. geography, ecology, geology, forestry, land policy and planning, etc.) use and refer to land cover and land-cover change as one of the most obvious and detectable indicators of land surface characteristics and associated human induced and natural processes. Current and future IPCC Assessment Reports are based upon an uncertain understanding of the land surface and related processes. Applications of land cover and land dynamics in climate change related Earth System Models and Impact Assessment Models should be better linked and coordinated. The importance of these issues requires continuous monitoring systems and data.