Visualizing mountain environment conservation


As the custodian agency of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 15.4, the Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS) at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) developed the official indicator, the Mountain Green Cover Index, for monitoring progress towards the achievement of this target. Baseline data developed for the Mountain Green Cover Index reveals that, as of 2017, 76 percent of the world’s mountain areas were covered by a form of green vegetation, including forests, shrubs, grassland and cropland. Across regions, mountain green cover was lowest in Western Asia and Northern Africa (60 percent) and highest in Oceania (96 percent). Interactive visualizations of the baseline data are now available online.

Recognizing the importance of pursuing sustainable mountain development for a more sustainable future, the United Nations adopted three mountain-related targets under two of the 17 SDGs of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Mountain Development in September 2015. SDG Target 15.4 is fully dedicated to conserving mountain ecosystems and states: “By 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development.”

Building on the recognition of a positive correlation between green coverage of mountain areas and their state of health and capacity to fulfil their ecosystem roles, SDG Indicator 15.4.2, the Mountain Green Cover Index, measures changes of the green vegetation in mountain areas. Its reduction might generally be linked to forest exploitation, timber extraction, fuel-wood collection, fire and climate change. Its increase could possibly be linked to reforestation or afforestation programmes as well as changed climatic conditions.

FAO Collect Earth and the 2015 global map of mountains produced by FAO/MPS are the data sources for the index. The baseline data developed for the Mountain Green Cover Index estimated disaggregated information by elevation class (UNEP-WCMC mountain classification by Kapos et al.) and for each IPCC land cover class (forests, cropland, grassland, wetlands, settlements, other land).

View the baseline data of the Mountain Green Cover Index 

Photo: FAO/Richard Slaby

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