UN Global Goal 15: Life on Land

Solutions Journalism Network

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.

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