I have a shapefile in British National Grid projection:

Geometry: 3D Polygon
Feature Count: 5378
Extent: (9247.520209, 14785.170099) - (638149.173223, 1217788.569952)
Layer SRS WKT:
cat: Integer (9.0)

Can I use GDAL/OGR to get the total area of all the polygons in the shapefile, in hectares?

I'm wondering if this is possible with -sql, something like:

ogrinfo -sql "SELECT SUM(ST_Area(geom::geography)) FROM mytable" myshapefile.shp

But trying that I get ERROR 1: Undefined function 'ST_Area' used..

I guess I could import the Shapefile into QGIS, add an area attribute to each polygon, and then sum it, but I would much rather use a command line tool if possible.

3 Answers 3


There's a special field in OGR SQL called OGR_GEOM_AREA which returns the area of the feature's geometry:

ogrinfo -sql "SELECT SUM(OGR_GEOM_AREA) AS TOTAL_AREA FROM myshapefile" myshapefile.shp

where TOTAL_AREA unit of measure depends by the layer SRS (read the comments below).

  • 1
    Amazing! This gives me SUM_OGR_GEOM_AREA (Real) = 4459037129.50955. Is this in hectares or some other unit? And does it matter what projection my source shapefile is in?
    – Richard
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 11:05
  • 2
    The unit of measure derives from how your geometries are projected, so they are square meters. Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 11:08
  • 2
    most likely in m^2, divide by 10000 to convert to hectares
    – dmci
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 11:08
  • Thanks! I just found the docs: gdal.org/classOGRSurface.html#a3b2c3125ec8c0b3a986e43cd1056f9e4 Returns the area of the feature in square units of the spatial reference system in use. Sorry to be a total beginner, but just in case I'm using a shapefile in a different SRS, how do I find out what the square units of a particular SRS are?
    – Richard
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 11:10
  • 2
    Looking in your layer SRS WKT (i.e. the projection file), you will find UNIT["Meter",1]] Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 11:13

Yes, it is possible, but you need to use the OGR SQLite dialect as follows:

ogrinfo -dialect SQLite -sql 'SELECT SUM(ST_Area(geometry))/10000 FROM myshapefile' myshapefile.shp

Also, ensure that myshapefile is the layer name in myshapefile.shp. You can do this as follows:

ogrinfo myshapefile.shp

INFO: Open of `myshapefile.shp`
    using driver `ESRI Shapefile' successful.
1: myshapefile (Polygon)
  • Thanks! Actually I see no such column: geometry. How do I find out what the geometry column is called? This is the output of ogrinfo -al -fid 1: OGRFeature(mylayer):1 cat (Integer) = 2 POLYGON ((463267.036276041297242 1216886.583904854720458 0,463267.693611663184129 1216956.525473011657596 0,463405.369117364054546 1216820.109560555079952 0,463404.712737055611797 1216750.1665881925728170,463267.036276041297242 1216886.583904854720458 0,463267.036276041297242 1216886.583904854720458 0)).
    – Richard
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 11:03
  • 1
    Do ogrinfo -so -al But @dmci, I do not understand one bit in your answer: for GDAL shapefiles have always one layer and its name is the basename of the shapefile. How can you get name "mytable" instead of "myshapefile"?
    – user30184
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 11:04
  • Thanks! The output from that command is in the original question.
    – Richard
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 11:05
  • @user30184 - totally agree - but I was replicating the naming conventions that the OP had used in their question. For consistency, I've updated my own answer
    – dmci
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 20:58
  • 2
    Ok, it seems to be driver specific. Some drivers report it like Geometry Column = GEOMETRY with ogrinfo -so -al but shapefile driver does not. With shapefiles I suppose that the name is "OGR_GEOMETRY" for OGR SQL dialect (see special fields in gdal.org/ogr_sql.html) and "geometry" for SQLite dialect.
    – user30184
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 9:09

Using QGIS, you may run this simple code for printing the total area of the shapefile (I assume you are evaluating the area in a projected reference system):

from qgis.core import *

filepath = 'C:/Users/path_to_the_shapefile/shapefile.shp'
layer = QgsVectorLayer(filepath, 'layer' , 'ogr')

area = 0
for feat in layer.getFeatures():
    area += feat.geometry().area()

print area # total area in square meters

print area/10000 # total area in hectares

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