Back to search

Hot off the press: Special issue on Land Degradation Neutrality Framework and Policies- open access to all articles during the next 6 months!

In the run towards the UNCCD COP 14 taking place in India from 2-13 September Environmental Science & Policy  journal special issue on Implementing Land Degradation Neutrality: from policy challenges to policy opportunities for national sustainable development offers open access to key articles on LDN during the next six months.( Edited by Graciela Metternicht, Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, Victor Castillo)

The principles of the Land Degradation Neutrality conceptual framework are core to this special issue, and the research papers included aim to support national sustainable development aspirations by providing guidance on policies, procedures and governance needed to regulate national land use to avoid further net loss of productive lands. 

Relevant to this special issue is science-based evidence on policy principles, rules and procedures to design national actions that contribute to LDN implementation; and on indicator systems and metrics to monitor and maintain a nationally desired status of the land. Contributions also identify key human, technical and institutional capacity needs at national and sub-national levels; provide new information and knowledge for framing future policy-oriented research, and technology to strive to achieve, and to maintain, land degradation neutrality at global and national scales.

The special issue on LDN is complete, and the 22 papers that make it are available for download as a bundle HERE :  6 months free access

Implementing land degradation neutrality: From policy challenges to policy opportunities for national sustainable development

Graciela Metternicht, Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, Victor Castillo, October 2019, Pages 189-191

The principles of the Land Degradation Neutrality conceptual framework are core to this special issue, and the research papers included aim to support national sustainable development aspirations by providing guidance on policies, procedures and governance needed to regulate national land use to avoid further net loss of productive lands. Relevant to this special issue is science-based evidence on policy principles, rules and procedures to design national actions that contribute to LDN implementation; and on indicator systems and metrics to monitor and maintain a nationally desired status of the land. ..

Experiences from the South African land degradation neutrality target setting process

Graham Paul von Maltitz, James Gambiza, Klaus Kellner, Thizwilondi Rambau, ... Barney Kgope, November 2019, Pages 54-62

South Africa undertook a national Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) target setting process during 2017/18 in response to the United Nations Convention to Combatting Desertification’s call for signatory countries to voluntarily commit to LDN as also requested under Sustainability Development Goal 15.3. The process was supported by the Global Mechanism (GM) and followed their guidelines. ..

Assessing resilience to underpin implementation of Land Degradation Neutrality: A case study in the rangelands of western New South Wales, Australia

A.L. Cowie, C.M. Waters, F. Garland, S.E. Orgill, ... G. Metternicht, October 2019, Pages 37-46

Land degradation through loss of ground cover, wind erosion and woody scrub encroachment affects rangelands globally, threatening the resilience of communities and ecosystems. Climate change is anticipated to exacerbate land degradation in the rangelands, through increased incidence of drought. In the semi-arid rangelands of Australia, land managers have limited capacity to manage land degradation. Recent Australian climate policy initiatives could provide opportunities to improve land management, and increase resilience of rangeland pastoral systems. .

Prioritizing land for investments based on short- and long-term land potential and degradation risk: A strategic approach

Jeffrey E. Herrick, Jason Neff, Amy Quandt, Shawn Salley, ... Brandon Bestelmeyer, June 2019, Pages 52-58

The response hierarchy of “Avoid > reduce > reverse” is increasingly acknowledged as the best strategy for prioritizing actions designed to address land degradation at hectare to national scales. This hierarchy is based on the assumption that the economic return on investment (ROI) will usually be higher for actions that help avoid degradation than for those required to restore already degraded land. While a useful first step, the hierarchy fails to account for how differences in land potential, defined as its potential to sustainably generate ecosystem services, may affect the ROI of actions at each level of the response hierarchy. .

Contribution of community-based initiatives to the sustainable development goal of Land Degradation Neutrality

Nathalie van Haren, Renate Fleiner, Hanspeter Liniger, Nicole Harari, April 2019, Pages 211-219

Where poor people rely on land that is degraded or vulnerable to degradation, they are at high risk of being locked into a downward spiral of poverty. It is estimated that over 1.5 billion people are affected by land degradation (UNCCD, 2014).

The World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT) and Both ENDS and their networks of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), promote sustainable land management (SLM) as a necessary shift from degrading the land to sustainable use and restoration. However, many SLM initiatives started by communities remain below the radar of policy makers and government institutions and therefore, being unrecognised for what they are, do not get institutional support, i.e. an enabling policy environment, economic incentives, and the technical support that they need to develop and be adopted by others.


Synergies between Land Degradation Neutrality goals and existing market-based instruments

Alex Baumber, Emily Berry, Graciela Metternicht, April 2019, Pages 174-181

Since the concept of the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) emerged in global policy discourse, a key point of contention has been the development of market-based instruments to promote the LDN agenda. Much of this discussion has focused on the use of LDN-specific offset mechanisms and private-public partnerships. However, there is also an opportunity to capitalise on the synergies that exist between LDN objectives and those of existing market-based instruments that have previously been developed for carbon, biodiversity, bioenergy and in other contexts. LDN objectives could be integrated into such schemes through targeted eligibility rules and certification schemes, supporting methodologies, adaptations to multifunctional indices used in auction-based approaches and the restructuring of mandates, tax breaks and feed-in tariffs for bioenergy and other products.

Achieving land degradation neutrality: The role of SLM knowledge in evidence-based decision-making

Hanspeter Liniger, Nicole Harari, Godert van Lynden, Renate Fleiner, ... William Critchley, April 2019, Pages 123-134

WOCAT – The World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies with its unique methodology and global Sustainable Land Management (SLM) database - can help promote scaling out of SLM and thus contribute to land degradation neutrality. This paper focuses primarily on three Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) indicators: (i) land cover, (ii) land productivity and (iii) carbon stocks. It is demonstrated what can be achieved by analyzing SLM practices in the database and how these shed light on the LDN indicators. Different stages of interventions - from prevention (avoiding), to reduction (reducing), and restoration (reversing) of Land Degradation (LD) - are differentiated and analyzed. 

Land Degradation Neutrality - Potentials for its operationalisation at multi-levels in Nigeria

Chinwe Ifejika Speranza, Ademola Adenle, Sébastien Boillat, April 2019, Pages 63-71

This paper examines the operability of the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) concept in a developing country context illustrated with the case of Nigeria, a country highly ranked as undergoing biomass degradation. While LDN offers an approach to monitor land degradation, through net-gain in land cover, land productivity and soil organic carbon, its operationalisation poses methodological, implementation and governance challenges. Based on a review of literature, available spatial datasets and the analysis of national policies, we examine the dynamics of land degradation and the prospects of LDN in Nigeria. 

Minimising soil organic carbon erosion by wind is critical for land degradation neutrality

Adrian Chappell, Nicholas P. Webb, John F. Leys, Cathleen M. Waters, ... Michael J. Eyres, March 2019, Pages 43-52

The Land Degradation-Neutrality (LDN) framework of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is underpinned by three complementary interactive indicators (metrics: vegetation cover, net primary productivity; NPP and soil organic carbon; SOC) as proxies for change in land-based natural capital. The LDN framework assumes that SOC changes slowly, primarily by decomposition and respiration of CO2 to the atmosphere. However, there is growing evidence that soil erosion by wind, water and tillage also reduces SOC stocks rapidly after land use and cover change.

Synergizing global tools to monitor progress towards land degradation neutrality: Trends.Earth and the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies sustainable land management database

Mariano Gonzalez-Roglich, Alex Zvoleff, Monica Noon, Hanspeter Liniger, ... Cesar Garcia, March 2019, Pages 34-42

As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, countries are striving to achieve by 2030 a land degradation neutral world. Land degradation neutrality (LDN) is the state whereby the amount and quality of land resources remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales. Achieving this will require the uptake of sustainable land management (SLM) practices to increase the sustainable provision of ecosystem goods and services the human population will require. It will also require the development of systematic, robust, and validated methods for tracking progress at project, subnational and national scales. However, to date, no systematic comparison between the SLM practices and the indicators proposed for monitoring LDN has been performed. 

Assessing the culture of fruit farmers from Calvillo, Aguascalientes, Mexico with an artificial neural network: An approximation of sustainable land management

Armando López Santos, Jorge Alejandro Torres González, Antonio De Jesús Meraz Jiménez, Joaquín Sosa Ramírez,Jesús Guadalupe Arreola Ávila, February 2019

Pages 311-322

The need to promote a sustainable land management (SLM) approach for land degradation neutrality (LDN) is a global challenge, and we must rely on local assessments of how rural participants are conducting their work. Therefore, the objectives of the present research are as follows: 1) evaluate the fruit culture of the guava producers (Psidium guajava, L.) in Calvillo, Aguascalientes, Mexico; and 2) to show whether it is possible to detect key variables in SLM by using an artificial neural network to improve productivity. 

Land degradation neutrality: The science-policy interface from the UNCCD to national implementation

Pamela Chasek, Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, Barron Joseph Orr, Anna Luise, ... Uriel Safriel, February 2019, Pages 182-190

The recognition of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s (UNCCD) failure to reduce the rate of desertification and its social and economic repercussions, and the attribution of this failure to lack of strong political will rather than to weak science and malpractice of land users, triggered the emergence of the land degradation neutrality (LDN) paradigm. After agreeing to a formal definition of LDN in 2015, an LDN Scientific Conceptual Framework was developed and endorsed by UNCCD Member States in September 2017. In parallel over 110 UNCCD Member States began implementing LDN, including the preparation for assessment of baseline data, LDN target setting, and monitoring LDN indicators.

Achieving land degradation neutrality in Germany: Implementation process and design of a land use change based indicator

Stephanie Wunder, Ralph Bodle, February 2019, Pages 46-55

Following the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, Germany has committed to implement the SDGs with high ambition. This includes a commitment to implement SDG 15.3, which aims to achieve “Land Degradation Neutrality” (LDN) by 2030. In order to do so, it was decided that the National Sustainable Development Strategy - the key strategic framework in Germany for achieving the SDGs - should include an indicator for soil quality and land degradation in a coming revision.

Developing good practice guidance for estimating land degradation in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Neil C. Sims, Jacqueline R. England, Glenn J. Newnham, Sasha Alexander, ... Alex Held, February 2019, Pages 349-355

In recent decades there have been numerous global and regional targets and initiatives to halt and reverse land degradation. The land degradation neutrality (LDN) target, embedded in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), provides a framework for countries to avoid or reduce degradation through sustainable land management, coupled with efforts to restore or rehabilitate degraded land. Here we present the key recommendations from the Good Practice Guidance (GPG) for monitoring and reporting on SDG indicator 15.3.1 (“proportion of land that is degraded over total land area”) and discuss how it could be used in the context of implementing the LDN target. SDG indicator 15.3.1 is assessed in terms of change in three sub-indicators: land cover, land productivity and carbon stocks. Each of these sub-indicators represents a unique perspective on the manifestation and assessment of land degradation. 

Land degradation assessment in the Argentinean Puna: Comparing expert knowledge with satellite-derived information

César Luis García, Ingrid Teich, Mariano Gonzalez-Roglich, Adolfo Federico Kindgard, ... Hanspeter Liniger, January 2019, Pages 70-80

The Puna region, located in NW Argentina, is a dry highland with many endemic species and significant traditional cultural heritage. The Puna was a pilot region for the Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands project (LADA-FAO) which aimed at assessing desertification status in different land use systems (LUS). The results of these assessments are used for reporting to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and for Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) monitoring. The assessment was performed using an expert knowledge questionnaire following the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies initiative methodology (LADA-WOCAT), on LUS map units obtained by a participatory mapping methodology. 

Assessing land condition as a first step to achieving land degradation neutrality: A case study of the Republic of Srpska

Marijana Kapović Solomun, Nichole Barger, Artemi Cerda, Saskia Keesstra, Mihajlo Marković, December 2018, Pages 19-27

Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) is a key voluntary and aspirational target of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 which urges countries to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. A first and critical important step in the implementation of LDN is assessing the current land condition using not only active restoration of degraded land, but also targeting land degradation drivers behind the land degradation process. In a first step to achieve these goals, countries were provided a global dataset for three sub-indicators of land degradation: land cover (LC), land productivity dynamics (LPD) and soil organic carbon (SOC). 

Uncertainties and policy challenges in implementing Land Degradation Neutrality in Russia

German Kust, Olga Andreeva, Vasiliy Lobkovskiy, Natalya Telnova, November 2018, Pages 348-356

The theoretical concept of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) developed by the UNCCD needs testing at the national level. We studied the uncertainties and challenges for LDN application in Russia as a country with high variability of natural and social-economic conditions. Having a great influence on the political decision-making and institutional politics is one of the challenges, and in this regard we found: (i) in national legislation: inadequate conceptualization of "land" as a natural entity, and of the processes of "land degradation" for non-agricultural lands, especially occurring in boreal and arctic regions; .....

Moving towards a twin-agenda: Gender equality and land degradation neutrality

Verona Collantes, Karina Kloos, Paulette Henry, Atieno Mboya, ... Graciela Metternicht, November 2018, Pages 247-253

The conceptual framework for Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) highlights that land degradation in developing countries impacts men and women differently, mainly due to unequal access to land, water, credit, extension services and technology. It further asserts that gender inequality plays a significant role in land-degradation-related poverty hence the need to address persistent gender inequalities that fuel women’s poverty in LDN interventions. ....

Informing investments in land degradation neutrality efforts: A triage approach to decision making (open access)

Martin Dallimer, Lindsay C. Stringer, November 2018, Pages 198-205

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 15.3 commits countries to strive towards land degradation neutrality (LDN) by 2030. LDN requires reductions in land quality to be balanced by efforts to restore or rehabilitate degraded areas. However, decisions need to be made as to where to invest given limited budgets and the impossibility of targeting all degraded land. Any prioritisation process is likely to be controversial and needs to be underpinned by transparent, justifiable, repeatable decision processes. In this paper, we develop a triage approach for LDN, drawing on experiences from biodiversity conservation. 

Can individual land ownership reduce grassland degradation and favor socioeconomic sustainability on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau?

J.J. Cao, N.M. Holden, J.F. Adamowski, R.C. Deo, ... Q. Feng, November 2018, Pages 192-197

Land degradation neutrality (LDN) was introduced to provide a policy framework to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15. Land use policy and management changes can alter the status of land-based natural capital, and exert an influence on ecosystem functioning and interactions with a socio-ecological system. Over the last 30 years, continued efforts to maintain the socioeconomic sustainability of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) led to the implementation of a unique ownership policy of individual households that were contracted to use defined grassland properties rather than collective nomadic practices. Two distinct types of privately-owned grassland properties now exist: individual private property (IPP) and jointly managed private property (JPP).

A social-ecological systems approach is necessary to achieve land degradation neutrality

Uche T. Okpara, Lindsay C. Stringer, Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, Graciela I. Metternicht, ... Mélanie Requier-Desjardins, November 2018, Pages 59-66

Viewing humans as drivers of change operating outside the natural environment is unhelpful for defining interventions that effectively manage change and complexity. Indeed, there is now broad agreement that environmental governance needs to consider integrated social-ecological systems (SES) in order to tackle the world’s grand challenges of land degradation. This requires a more differentiated, innovative approach that considers how changes in SES shape the functioning of land systems as a whole, and the synergies and trade-off these changes may produce. 

env science policy journal