Land degradation leads to general decline in biodiversity and ecosystem services. IUCN works in favor of stronger understanding in regards to sustainable land management’s potential when addressing land degradation.
Soil biodiversity is a cornerstone in food and water security, being a major determinant of agricultural productivity. According to the FAO, soil contributes to the production of 95% of all food for human consumption and sustainable management could increase food production by up to 58% more. Healthy soils also help mitigate climate change by storing carbon; it has been estimated they can store more than 10% of all anthropogenic emissions.
Under the slogan, “Land has true value – invest in it” the 2018 World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) urged to move away from unsustainable land use and make a difference by investing in the future of the land. The WDCD was established by the UN General Assembly to raise awareness on the global and national actions that address desertification, land degradation, and drought.
Often we use land as if it were a limitless resource, however, drylands like savannahs and grasslands are particularly vulnerable to overgrazing and unsustainable farming. Overexploitation combined with climate change quickly turns a productive dryland into a wasteland, resulting in the degradation of ecosystem services such as food and water supply, and in biodiversity loss.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is an international convention that focuses primarily on addressing land degradation, especially in those countries experiencing serious drought or desertification - particularly in Africa. So far, 196 states and the European Union have ratified the UNCCD and, in order to address this problem, have been focusing on achieving Land Degradation Neutrality worldwide through Sustainable Development Goal 15.3.
The Parties to the Convention have defined Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) as:
A state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.
IUCN has a deep-rooted partnership with the UNCCD, actively influencing the convention’s improvement by promoting Nature Based Solutions aimed towards stopping desertification, land degradation, and drought, and by working on the development, adoption, and implementation of Land Degradation Neutrality (LND).
Recently a new publication by IUCN titled “Soil Biodiversity and Soil Organic Carbon: keeping drylands alive” specifies that soil biodiversity and soil organic carbon are vital to ecosystems functioning and determine the value of land in producing food, storing water, and mitigating climate change. More importantly, this publication addresses the gap in awareness concerning the relationship between soil biodiversity and its role in the provision of ecosystem services.
“Soil biodiversity is the key ingredient that determines the ecological value of land. That means value of land in providing food, storing and filtering water, capturing and storing carbon, and providing other services. When land is managed effectively, it provides these multiple services simultaneously” Dr. Jonathan Davies, Drylands Coordinator - IUCN Ecosystem Management Programme.
Experience in Africa is another example of the work by IUCN, where efforts are focused on managing land in a way that allows traditional grazing practices to settle, and “dry season pastures” are been set aside to act as a buffer in periods of drought. By conserving vegetation and turning towards land restoration, soil biodiversity’s protection is also ensured, which helps retain moisture and brings significant economic gains.
The implementation of LDN requires multi-stakeholder engagement and planning across scales and sectors, as well as incorporating existing local and regional governance structures. In this context, The World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) is observed every June 17th, to remind everyone that land degradation can be halted with strong community participation and cooperation at all levels.
Written by: Lila García
Style and format: Lila García and Clara Gómez
Provita Jul 04, 2018