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Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Healthy ecosystems protect the planet and sustain livelihoods.

Terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, make vital contributions to biodiversity and provide myriad environmental goods and services. They contribute to decent livelihoods while providing clean air and water, conserving biodiversity and mitigating climate change. Forests and rangelands sustain a range of industries, generate jobs and income and act as a source of food, medicine and fuel for more than a billion people.

However, across the globe, natural resources are deteriorating, ecosystems are stressed and biological diversity is being lost. Land use changes, including deforestation, result in a loss of valuable habitats, a decrease in clean water, land degradation, soil erosion and the release of carbon into the atmosphere. They contribute to the loss of valuable economic assets and livelihood opportunities.

The SDGs move beyond pure conservation to recognising the importance of sustainable management of natural resources in ensuring the long-term survival of our planet. Achieving the SDG targets requires data and assessments of the state of the planet’s resources, so that policy responses are based on sound evidence.

FAO assessment reports on the state of natural resources such as soils, forests, land degradation etc. provide a basis for evidence-based decision-making. Multistakeholder alliances such as the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, the Global Soil Partnership and the Mountain Partnership have been working to promote sustainable approaches to natural resource management. They support inclusive governance approaches that promote a balance between conservation and development actions.

Facts and figures

On forests

  • Forests cover 31 percent of global land area, and shelter about 18 percent of the world’s population.
  • Forests contain over 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.
  • Over half of all wood produced in the world is used for energy; a third of all households use wood as their main fuel for cooking.

On mountains

  • Mountains cover almost a quarter of the earth’s land area. They are home to more than one tenth of the world’s population.
  • Mountains are the major storehouses of the freshwater that sustains life on earth, providing 70 percent of the world’s freshwater resources for domestic, agricultural and industrial consumption.

On land

  • Including mosaics of grasslands and shrublands, grassland systems are estimated to cover about 32 percent of the world’s land area, and tree covered areas cover another 28 percent. In 40 countries, grasslands cover more than 50 percent of the land area.
  • About 20 percent of grasslands around the world are degraded. Grassland cover can potentially capture 50 to 80 percent more water compared to uncovered soils, reducing the risk of drought and floods.
  • The biodiversity of rangelands is rich. For flora, around 750 general and 12000 grass species occur across all climatic zones. For fauna, grasslands contain 11 percent of the world’s endemic bird areas, and contribute to the maintenance of pollinators and other insects important for regulating ecosystem functions.

On soils

  • Soils contain nearly three times as much carbon as is stored in all terrestrial plants.
  • A third of the planet’s soils are degraded. Erosion carries away 25 to 40 billion tonnes of topsoil every year, significantly reducing crop yields and soil’s ability to store and cycle carbon, nutrients and water.
  • An estimated 760,000 km2 of land worldwide is affected by human-induced salinity, caused mainly by large-scale irrigation projects.

SDG15 Targets

  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

a. Mobilize and significantly increase financial resources from all sources to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystems.

b. 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.

c. 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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