Back to search

About the scientific conceptual framework for land degradation neutrality


Land in Balance, a science-policy brief prepared by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface

Scientific Conceptual Framework for Land Degradation Neutrality, a report of the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface

© UN Photo / John Isaac

The scientific conceptual framework for land degradation neutrality (LDN) explains the underlying scientific processes and principles that support achievement of LDN and its intended outcomes. The framework provides a scientifically-sound basis to understand and implement LDN, to inform the development of practical guidance for pursuing LDN and to monitor progress towards the LDN target.

The scientific conceptual framework focuses on the goal of LDN – which is to maintain or enhance the land resource base in order to sustain the ecosystem services derived from land – and the supporting processes required to deliver this goal, including biophysical and socio-economic aspects, and their interactions.

The scientific conceptual framework is designed to be applicable to all types of land degradation, so that it can be used by countries according to their individual circumstances. It serves as a common point of reference for the emerging LDN discourse and various LDN initiatives, and has been designed to create a bridge between the vision and the practical implementation of LDN through National Action Programmes, by defining LDN in operational terms.

LDN report blank

The "Scientific Conceptual Framework for Land Degradation Neutrality" report was coordinated by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI), following decision 3/COP.12, operative paragraph 10c, which requested the secretariat and appropriate UNCCD bodies to provide scientific and technical guidance for implementation of LDN at the national level, and decision 21/COP.12 which contains the SPI work programme for the biennium 2016-2017.

The scientific conceptual framework was endorsed by the COP at its thirteenth session, in decision 18/COP.13.


The structure of the scientific conceptual framework for LDN report consists of a series of five interconnected modules (A to E). Each module provides a detailed answer to the guiding question that frames its content, and explains the purpose of the module and the LDN approach that guides the module’s practical application (see the table below). 

Read the modules of the scientific conceptual framework for LDN:

LDN modules table LDN modules table LDN modules table LDN modules table LDN modules table LDN modules table
   Read Module A
    Read Module B
       Read Module C
      Read Module D
      Read Module E


Each module chapter is available for download, and provides a step-by-step approach to LDN implementation and monitoring. The full report of the scientific conceptual framework for LDN is also available in French and Spanish.

LDN targets

LDN is enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015. SDG 15 aims to sustain life on land and includes a target (15.3) that makes explicit reference to LDN: “By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world” (United Nations General Assembly, 2015).

At COP12, Parties to the Convention were invited to formulate voluntary targets to achieve LDN in accordance with their specific national circumstances and development priorities. The conceptual framework was developed to assist UNCCD country Parties that choose to voluntarily pursue LDN to do so in a well-informed manner, informing the planning and implementation of measures and enhancing the capacity of those Parties to meet their respective LDN targets. The LDN Target Setting Programme, implemented by the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, supports countries to develop their voluntary national LDN targets.

Read more: