RichesOfNature – SDG15 Life on Land
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SDG15 Life on Land

Forests cover 30.7 per cent of the Earth’s surface and, in addition to providing food security and shelter, they are key to combating climate change, protecting biodiversity and the homes of the indigenous population. By protecting forests, we will also be able to strengthen natural resource management and increase land productivity.

Deforestation and desertification – caused by human activities and climate change – pose major challenges to sustainable development and have affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in the fight against poverty.


Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

At the current time, thirteen million hectares of forests are being lost every year while the persistent degradation of drylands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares. Even though up to 15% of land is currently under protection, biodiversity is still at risk.

Efforts are being made to manage forests and combat desertification. There are two international agreements being implemented currently that promote the use of resources in an equitable way. Financial investments in support of biodiversity are also being provided.

  • Forests play a role in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. They are key to combating climate change and protecting biodiversity and the homes of the indigenous populations. Forests are also important for recreation and mental well-being.
  • Forests cover nearly 31% of our planet’s land area, are home to more than 80% of all terrestrial species of animals, plants, and insects, and support the livelihood of around 1.6 billion people.
  • Almost 75% of the world’s poor are affected directly by land degradation and around 80% of people living in rural areas in developing countries rely on traditional plant-based medicines for basic healthcare.
  • Of the 8,300 animal breeds known, 8% are extinct and 22% are at risk of extinction.
  • Nearly 7,000 species of animals and plants have been reported in illegal trade involving 120 countries.
  • Of the over 80,000 tree species, less than 1% have been studied for potential use.
  • Over 80% of the human diet is provided by plants, but only three cereal crops (rice, maize, and wheat) provide 60% of energy intake.
  • From 1998 to 2013, about one-fifth of the Earth’s land surface covered by vegetation showed persistently declining trends in productivity.
  • Due to drought and desertification, each year 12 million hectares are lost where 20 million tons of grain could have been grown.
  • Deforestation and desertification (caused by human activities and climate change) have affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in the fight against poverty.
  • 2.6 billion people depend directly on agriculture, but 52% of the land used for agriculture is moderately or severely affected by soil degradation.

The UN Forum on Forests Secretariat estimates that achieving sustainable forest management on a global scale would cost $70-$160 billion per year. The Convention on Biological Diversity estimates that $150-$440 billion per year is required to halt the loss of biodiversity at a global level by the middle of this century.

  • Deforestation and forest degradation result in loss of habitat for all species, a decrease in freshwater quality, an increase in soil erosion, and higher emissions of carbon into the atmosphere.
  • Natural disasters caused by ecosystems disrupted by human impact and climate change already cost the world more than $300 billion per year.
  • Insects and other pollen-carriers are estimated to be worth more than $200 billion per year to the global food economy.
  • Three-quarters of the top-ranking global prescription drugs contain components derived from plant extracts, which would be threatened.
  • As a member of society, you can recycle, eat local and sustainable food, consume only what you need, and limit energy usage through efficient heating and cooling systems. You can also only take part in ecotourism opportunities that are responsible and ethical.
  • As a global community, we must protect Key Biodiversity Areas (sites that contribute significantly to global biodiversity), in order to strengthen natural resource management and biodiversity conservation. Between 2000 and 2017, the global average coverage of terrestrial, freshwater, and mountain KBAs by protected areas increased from 35-47%, from 32-43%, and from 39-49%, respectively. However, recent growth in KBAs covered by protected areas has been modest, with an increase of only 1-2% since 2010.
  1. By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements
  2. By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally
  3. By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world
  4. By 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development
  5. Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species
  6. Promote fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and promote appropriate access to such resources, as internationally agreed
  7. Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products
  8. By 2020, introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species
  9. By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts
  10. Mobilize and significantly increase financial resources from all sources to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystems
  11. Mobilize significant resources from all sources and at all levels to finance sustainable forest management and provide adequate incentives to developing countries to advance such management, including for conservation and reforestation
  12. Enhance global support for efforts to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species, including by increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities
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