Goal 15 reminds us that healthy human communities rely on the health of our land and forest ecosystems. Protecting life on land requires the conservation and restoration of terrestrial ecosystems, the sustainable use and management of forests, efforts to halt and reverse desertification and land degradation, as well as cooperation to stop biodiversity loss.
A 2019 UN report finds that nearly three-quarters of land-based ecosystems are challenged by human development, e.g. agricultural expansion and livestock production, high levels of plastic pollution, and the growth of urban areas. The report estimates that as many as one million species face increased risk of extinction due to human impact.
To turn this situation around, the SDG 15 focuses on the following targets:
- Ensure the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, e.g. promote sustainable forest management and reforestation; combat desertification and restore degraded soil
- Guarantee food security by upholding the exchange and utilization of plant genetic resources.
- Protect threatened species by reducing poaching, promoting efforts against invasive species, and integrating sustainable planning into development strategies.
- Mobilize financial resources to make ecologically sound programs possible.
Several stories in this collection highlight how transformative changes can take place when communities directly affected by land degradation are in charge. Nick Rodway describes how First Communities in Australia are working with an NGO to document and conserve the continent’s threatened monsoon vine thickets. At the Potato Park in Peru, agronomists are working alongside farmers in the Andean mountains to preserve crop diversity. Because Peruvian culture specializes in growing tubers, local knowledge combined with genetic research allows for the creation of potatoes more resilient to the effects of climate change.
We also see how organizations work to balance the goals of conservation and the needs of local communities when addressing the question of poaching. In Uganda, the Budongo Conservation Field Station team offers goats to would-be poachers in an effort to de-incentivize the killing of chimpanzees.
Click here for more stories in the Solutions Story Tracker on life on land.
- How can the value of biodiversity be measured and conveyed in a way that integrates with economic development strategies?
- After reading Julia Rosen’s article about Canada’s boreal forests and Nick Rodway’s article about the Kimberly Nature Project in Western Australia, explain how indigenous knowledge is used in forest management and why this is significant.
- After reading Fred Kockott’s article about anti-poaching efforts in Mozambique and Michele Cantazaro’s article about threatened chimps in Uganda, describe some of the factors that contribute to the success of the solution. Specifically, how do increased enforcement and economic alternatives work as anti-poaching mechanisms?
- Deforestation for agriculture—driven in large part by export markets—is a leading cause of land degradation. How can governments and communities weigh the costs and benefits of sustainable development and conservation alongside the economic necessities of trade?
- Examine at least two other SDGs and their targets alongside Goal 15. Then, either explain or illustrate how the targets of these SDGs relate or influence one another.
- Choose an Issue Area or a Success Factor related to Goal 15. Then, create a collection and select at least 4 (or more) stories from the Solution’s Story Tracker that relate to your topic. If working with groups, each group can present on the issues and solutions they found most compelling.
- The process of ecosystem service valuation measures the economic value of environmental services, either through direct or indirect use. Direct use relates to resources drawn directly from the land, such as timber, crops, fish, or other commodities. Indirect costs measure externalities such as landscapes that offer flood protection. Other values might relate to questions of cultural significance. The UN estimates the value of ecosystems to human livelihoods and well-being is 125 trillion USD per year.
- Nick Rodway illustrates ways in which indigenous communities assist in fire management by conducting more manageable seasonable burns according to local traditions. Local managers also maintain a seed bank to help native species resist against the encroachment of invasive species. Julia Rosen’s piece discusses the ways in which indigenous communities act as stewards of protected territories by using resources in a less exploitative way—for instance by harvesting fruits or nuts instead of timber. The methods in Rodway and Rosen’s articles lead to more resilient ecosystems, which also trap more carbon.
- Fred Kockott’s article focuses on increased law enforcement capacity in Mozambique. By increasing patrols and tightening the laws surrounding illegal logging, Mozambique’s government has made conservation work in the area much more effective. Another significant factor is the partnership between the government, which provides support in the form of legal frameworks, and Peace Parks Foundation, a nonprofit that specialize in conservation work. Michele Cantanzaro’s article shows how former poachers have become enforcers for conservation. The conservation effort provides poachers with an alternative livelihood. The Budongo Forest team also provides locals with goats to reduce the need for setting traps for other animals.
- SDG 15 presents a trade-off for many local communities. Agriculture provides a significant source of livelihood, even while it contributes to land degradation. In developing countries, much of the deforestation is in the service of agricultural expansion, especially to export products to markets. Efforts to promote conservation need to balance local needs with the targets of the global goals.
- Answers will vary by student. Goal 15 especially rates to SDGs 1, 2, 12, 13, 14
- Answers will vary—for more on creating collections, click here. For more on Success Factors, click here.