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SDG Indicator 15.3.1


Default data: methods and interpretation. A guidance document for the 2018 UNCCD reporting

Copyright ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a framework for countries to determine how best to improve the lives of their people now while ensuring that these improvements are sustained for future generations. The total of 17 SDGs came into effect in January 2016 and are expected to guide social, economic and environmental policy and investment over the next 15 years. SDG 15 promotes “Life on Land” and SDG target 15.3 states: ‘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.’

The UNCCD is the custodian agency for SDG indicator 15.3.1 (“Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area”) to monitor progress towards achieving SDG target 15.3. Indicator SDG 15.3.1 has been upgraded to Tier 2 in November 2017.

Land degradation is defined as “the reduction or loss of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of rain fed cropland, irrigated cropland, or range, pasture, forest and woodlands resulting from a combination of pressures, including land use and management practices”. Total land area is the total surface area of a country less the area covered by inland waters, like major rivers and lakes. The indicator is expressed as a percent.

Information on the proportion of land that is degraded over total land area is going to be regularly collected and analysed by the UNCCD through its national reporting and review process beginning in 2018, and every four years thereafter.

Indicator development

The data collection process for UNCCD reporting has begun with the first reporting period scheduled for 2018 and subsequent reporting every four years. Data from the 2018 reporting period will be released by February 2019 in national, sub-regional, regional and global formats.

The indicator is currently under development. Data are being collected through the 2018 UNCCD reporting and review process. A series of regional capacity building workshops are planned during the period March-May 2018 under the auspices of the Global Support Programme (“Strengthening UNCCD reporting –enhancing implementation of the UNCCD”) which is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and executed by the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD. The workshops will enable countries to prepare and submit UNCCD national reports by mid-2018, which in turn will inform SDG reporting at the regional and global level in February 2019. Workshop participants will include UNCCD national focal points and designated representatives of national statistical offices. The geographical scope of these regional capacity building efforts will be global and include all UN Member States, with a focus on countries with developing and emerging economies.

In response to a decision of UNCCD COP13 in September 2017, a new Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Initiative on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) is being created to assist countries and regions to build national capacities for monitoring and reporting on land degradation. Once the GEO Initiative on LDN has been formally adopted, there will likely be opportunities to follow up on these workshops and provide targeted assistance throughout 2018. A capacity building work plan for 2019-2022 will be developed to increase the country coverage and the level of confidence in the indicators among national authorities.

Data and methodology

Coverage: Global, regional, sub-regional and national (196 Parties to the UNCCD)

Scale: Global data/ aggregated from national data. Currently, data underpinning the indicator are mainly derived from remote sensing data sources which have global coverage and can be disaggregated to the national level. Through the UNCCD reporting and review process, countries will interpret and verify national estimates derived from global data sources and, eventually, replace them with other national data.

Time series available: 2000-2015

Next planned update: Updates released every four years (next planned update 2022)

Possible disaggregations: National and sub-national level by land cover type or other spatially explicit land unit.

Methodology: The scientific conceptual framework for LDN, endorsed at COP13, underpins a universal methodology for deriving the indicator.

The indicator is derived from a binary classification of land condition (i.e., degraded or not degraded) based on three sub-indicators (and associated metrics):

·  Land Cover (land cover change)

·  Land Productivity (land productivity dynamics)

·  Carbon Stocks (soil organic carbon stocks)

Quantifying the indicator is based on the evaluation of changes in the sub-indicators in order to determine the extent of land that is degraded over total land area. The sub-indicators are few in number, complementary and non-additive components of land-based natural capital and sensitive to different degradation factors. The One Out, All Out (1OAO) principle is applied: if one of the sub-indicators is negative (or stable when degraded in the baseline or previous monitoring year) for a particular land unit, then that land unit would be considered as degraded subject to validation by national authorities. This rule is applied as a precautionary measure, because stability or improvements in land condition in any of the three indicators cannot compensate for degradation in the others.

Data Sources

Availability of global data for national use: Data currently used to calculate the indicators are mainly derived by:

European Space Agency’s Climate Change Initiative Land Cover dataset which provides consistent global land cover maps at 300 m spatial resolution on an annual basis from 1992 to 2015

Joint Research Centre's Land Productivity Dynamics (LPD) dataset which provides consistent global LPD maps at 1km spatial resolution covering the period 1999 to 2013

ISRIC's SoilGrids250m which is used to derive SOC average (ton/ha) to 30 cm

Publications and reports

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