Monitoring land degradation neutrality

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How will land degradation neutrality (LDN) be monitored?

(source: "Land in balance", a science-policy brief prepared by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI))

The LDN frame of reference

The novel aspect of  LDN, that sets it apart from earlier efforts to tackle land degradation, is the specific adoption of neutrality as the goal. To assess whether this goal has been met, a reference (baseline) must be established, against which performance can be assessed.

Neutrality means no net degradation, compared with this baseline. So the baseline becomes the (minimum) target to be achieved.

Monitoring achievement of neutrality is based on quantifying the baseline and then assessing the balance between the area of “gains” (significant positive changes/improvements) and area of “losses” (significant negative changes/degradation) relative to the baseline, within each land type, at the target date.

Indicators for LDN

The LDN conceptual framework specifies what to measure (the indicators) and how it is assessed (the metrics). Indicators are chosen that reflect the key processes that underpin land-based natural capital. Metrics are chosen to be universally applicable and interpretable, and quantifiable with available data sets.

The indictors for LDN are the UNCCD progress reporting indicators (and associated metrics):

  1. Land cover (land cover change)
  2. Land productivity (net primary productivity)
  3. Carbon stocks (soil organic carbon)

These can be supplemented as needed by other sustainable development goal (SDG) indicators and national indicators.

The “one-out, all-out” approach

The “one-out, all-out” approach is used to interpret the results of the three global indicators: if any of the three indicators/metrics shows significant negative change, it is considered a loss (and conversely, if at least one indicator/metric shows a significant positive change and none shows a significant negative change it is considered a gain).

A simplified example, provided in the figure above, illustrates how LDN is monitored using the metrics to identify areas of change, and the one-out, all-out approach to identify gains and losses.

The goal of LDN: no net loss of land-based natural capital.

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