In order to halt and reverse the current trends in land degradation, there is an urgent need to enhance national capacities to measure and map degraded lands and identify the most appropriate interventions. Target 15.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aims to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN) worldwide by 2030. LDN is defined as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources necessary to support ecosystem functions and services to enhance food security remain stable, or increase, within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.” The SDG Indicator 15.3.1 (“the proportion of land that is degraded over total land area”), for which the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the custodian agency, utilizes three sub-indicators: land cover, land productivity and carbon stocks, which can be calculated from Earth Observation (EO) and other geospatial information in accordance with the Good Practice Guidance for SDG Indicator 15.3.1.
The UNCCD’s Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) target-setting and implementation programmes use SDG indicator 15.3.1 and its sub-indicators in a decision support framework to encourage countries to stabilize or reduce their extent of degraded lands through conservation, sustainable management and restoration activities. A coordinated response is needed from the Earth observation (EO) and geospatial community to assist countries and other actors, particularly those with limited EO capacities, to carry out assessments and implement LDN activities.
Increased access to large EO datasets, targeted data products, improved analytical capacity and practical tools are needed to help countries set and implement LDN targets, including to support policy, planning and investment decisions. The GEO-LDN Flagship aims to facilitate the provision of space-based information and in-situ measurements for improved land management and planning which are fundamentally linked to many other areas of the GEO Work Programme, including its Strategic Plan 2016-2025, and global priorities on sustainable development, climate action and disaster risk reduction. The data, products, tools, platforms and reporting protocols developed within the GEO-LDN Flagship will be accessible openly via an online platform, for example the GEO Knowledge Hub (GKH), available for use by other GEO initiatives, including GEOBON, GEOGLAM and the Earth Observations for Ecosystem Accounting Initiative.
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