Vision of 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
Land is important for human wellbeing, as it provides food, feed and fibre and contributes to regulating the ecosystem services on which the provision of these goods depend. Land is under growing pressure to meet the multiple needs of an increasingly urban and affluent global population, with a growing per-capita demand for the goods and services provided by land. Climate change adds to this pressure, as it increases the frequency of extreme weather events that stress land’s capacity to supply vital services, such as food and water. Land degradation must be addressed to protect the productive potential of land and its ability to continue delivering the multiple goods and services that humans depend on.
The LDN vision
Land degradation neutrality (LDN) is a response to this challenge, and creates a concrete target of maintaining the world’s resource of healthy and productive land. The aspirational goal of LDN, also known as the LDN vision, is "to sustain and improve the stocks of land-based natural capital and the associated flows of ecosystem services, in order to support the future prosperity and security of humankind" (statement by the UNCCD Executive Secretary M. Barbut, 2015). The LDN vision is supported by the following three objectives:
- Maintain or improve the sustainable delivery of ecosystem services: i.) maintain or improve productivity, in order to enhance food security; ii.) increase resilience of the land and populations dependent on the land);
- Seek synergies with other social, economic and environmental objectives; and
- Reinforce responsible and inclusive governance of land.
Land-based natural capital and ecosystem services
A key concept within the LDN vision is land-based natural capital, which refers to the stocks of natural capital associated with land resources. This includes the soil properties as well as the geomorphological, biotic and hydrological features of a site. These features interact with each other and with climate to determine the quantity and nature of ecosystem services provided by the land.
The system description below (modified from Dominati et al., 2010) highlights the ecosystem services delivered by land-based natural capital and the relationship between these services and their contributions to overall human wellbeing. It shows how changes in the stocks of land-based natural capital (the inherent and manageable properties) influence the flow of ecosystem services, which could consequently have a direct impact on the fulfilment of human needs. Maintaining land-based natural capital as demand for land-based services increases is therefore fundamental if human wellbeing is to be protected and enhanced for present as well as future generations.
- Principles underpinning the vision of LDN (Module A)
1. Maintain or enhance land-based natural capital: LDN is achieved when the quantity and quality of land-based natural capital (World Bank, 2012) is stable or increasing, despite the impacts of global environmental change.
2. Protect human rights and enhance human well-being: Actions taken in pursuit of the LDN target should not compromise the rights of land users (especially small-scale farmers and indigenous populations) to derive economic benefit and support livelihoods from their activities on the land, and should not diminish the provisioning capacity and cultural value of the land.
3. Respect national sovereignty: Governments set national targets guided by the global level of ambition while taking into account national circumstances. Governments decide the level of aspiration and how LDN targets are incorporated in national planning processes, policies and strategies.