Ecosystem Management

World Day to Combat Desertification - 17 June 2018

The World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) is observed every June 17th to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. This year, WDCD will focus on the theme "Land has true value. Invest in it".

According to a new publication by IUCN on 'Soil Biodiversity and Soil Organic Carbon: keeping drylands alive', soil biodiversity and soil organic carbon are vital to the way ecosystems function and they largely determine the value of land in producing food, storing water, and mitigating climate change.This publication was developed to address the gap in awareness of the relationship between soil biodiversity and soil organic carbon, particularly in drylands, and the role of soil biodiversity in the provision of ecosystem services.

The importance of soil organic carbon for positive environmental and development outcomes gained recognition as a result of breakthrough decisions at the twelfth session of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in October 2015. Soil organic carbon is recognized as a major determinant of agricultural productivity and water security, and it is the cornerstone of biodiversity and climate change resilience. However, there is insufficient convergence of the many different branches of science, practice and policy that deal with soil organic carbon and its relationship with biodiversity. As a result the multiple benefits of soil organic carbon are easily ignored and risk being lost.

According to Dr. Jonathan Davies, Drylands Coordinator - IUCN Ecosystem Management Programme, “soil biodiversity is the key ingredient that determines the ecological value of land. That means value of land in providing food, storing and filtering water, capturing and storing carbon, and providing other services. When land is managed effectively, it provides these multiple services simultaneously.” Watch the full video below.

Soil biodiversity and soil organic carbon are therefore an important foundation of a broad range of ecosystem services across all four standard ecosystem service categories. It is therefore key to the multi-functionality of a landscape, and the reason why strengthening investment and legislation in sustainable land management is considered to be central to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals SDG Target 15.3 aims to achieve a Land Degradation Neutral World by the year 2030, by maintaining and increasing the amount of healthy and productive land resources.

For good governance of our shared land resources, governments should aim at protecting and promoting the multi-functionality of land: to ensure that land users employ sustainable approaches that are measured against the delivery of multiple goods and services. Achieving this goal requires a number of priority measures:

  • Evaluate land management against the sustainable delivery of multiple goods and services;
  • Build on policies and legislation to enable scaling-up of sustainable land management and landscape restoration or rehabilitation;
  • Enhance local governance mechanisms that support land users in sustainable land management practices;
  • Strengthen land information to support landscape-scale planning and monitoring;
  • Establish effective extension services that support land users to adopt sustainable land management practices;
  • Create enabling conditions for private investment in sustainable land management.

To access the full publication:

Cover page Photo: IUCN

English version
French version
Spanish version

Citation: Peter Laban, Graciela Metternicht, and Jonathan Davies, 2018. Soil Biodiversity and Soil Organic Carbon: keeping drylands alive. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. viii + 24p

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