Commission on Ecosystem Management

Dryland Ecosystems

Acknowledging that there is still a long way to go, we feel that we are today in a strong position to turn the growing global awareness into action, and collectively work to arrest the decline of this magical, life-giving resource. (Alexander Muller and Inge Andersen in their foreword to the TB on Soil Carbon)

Specialist Group Leader  Peter Laban 
Specialisit Group Co-Leader Graciela Metternicht
SC Focal point Birguy Lamizana 

The drylands, situated in the sub-humid, semi-arid and arid biomes, cover 42 % of the earth surface, and provide 44% of all cultivated land and 50% of the world’s livestock. Drylands and their rangelands are particularly valuable for carbon storage due to their high degree of permanence—the duration that carbon is stored in the soil—compared to humid areas. In dryland areas, such as the Sahel, the Middle East, or Australia, most biodiversity is found beneath the soil’s surface and conserving it is crucial for water and food security. Of these drylands 75% are rangelands that count for roughly one third of our planet’s terrestrial biodiversity, store one third of the world soil carbon (i.e. roughly 450 GtC or about as much as the organic carbon stocked in all terrestrial vegetation) and provide livelihoods to between 200 to 500 million people. As many as 2 billion people live in the drylands depend on ecosystem services from rangelands. Nevertheless, these rangelands are a rather neglected eco-geographic zone with multiple ecosystems that provide key services to mankind, in the form of rural livelihoods, hydrological flows, carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

The Dryland Ecosystems Specialist Group has been working over the last 5 years closely with and in support of the Global Dryland Initiative, part of the IUCN Global Ecosystem Management Programme. During these 5 years, rangelands have got much attention, which has materialized in a number of IUCN/CEM Technical Briefs and reports.

Much of this work done on drylands and rangelands has found its way in the SDGs and most notably in under target 15.3 (Land Degradation Neutrality) and other global targets set under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Further work is under way, and will be highlighted in a rangeland workshop that will take place in Jordan back to back to the CEM Steering Committee meeting in September 2018.

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