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Scientific Conceptual Framework for Land Degradation Neutrality ( Advance copy)

The Scientific Conceptual Framework for Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) provides a scientific foundation for understanding, implementing and monitoring LDN. It has been designed to create a bridge between the vision and the practical implementation of LDN, by defining LDN in operational terms. The conceptual framework is a product of the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface. 

Pursuit of LDN requires effort to avoid further net loss of the land-based natural capital relative to a reference state, or baseline. Planning for neutrality involves counterbalancing anticipated losses with measures to achieve equivalent gains, within individual land types, where land type is defined by land potential. Integration of planning for LDN interventions into existing land use planning is encouraged. Particular attention is paid to projecting and tracking the likely cumulative impacts of land use and land management decisions.

Actions to achieve LDN include land management approaches that avoid or reduce degradation, coupled with efforts to reverse degradation through restoration or rehabilitation of land that has lost productivity. The response hierarchy of Avoid >Reduce > Reverse land degradation articulates the priorities in planning LDN interventions. The implementation of LDN is managed at the landscape scale, considering all land units of each land type and their interactions and ecological trajectories, so that LDN interventions can be optimized among those land units, in order to maintain or exceed no net loss, per land type. 

Monitoring achievement of neutrality will quantify the balance between the area of gains (significant positive changes in LDN indicators =improvements) and area of losses (significant negative changes in LDN  indicators=degradation), within each land type across the landscape. The LDN indicators (and associated metrics) are land cover (land cover change), land productivity (net primary production) and carbon stocks (soil organic carbon). The LDN conceptual framework is designed to be applicable to all land uses (i.e., land managed for production–e.g., agriculture, forestry; for conservation–e.g., protected areas; and also land occupied by human settlements and infrastructure); and all types of land degradation, across the wide variety of countries’ circumstances, so that it can be implemented in a harmonized fashion by all countries that choose to pursue LDN. It helps build the bridge between the vision and the practical implementation of LDN through National Action Programmes, by defining LDN in operational terms.

It is a process framework that captures the vision of what LDN is intended to achieve, and, based on this, provides guidance on how best to assess land degradation and identify appropriate management actions, and ultimately report on progress in achieving LDN.