Every year, thirteen million hectares of forests are lost. Land degradation has led to 3.6 million hectares of desertification, or the loss of fertile land. Forests cover 30% of the earth and help reduce climate change while providing food and shelter. They are home to both diverse ecosystems as well as indigenous populations. About 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods.
Despite growing global awareness of land degradation, invasive species, poaching, and trafficking of wildlife, these factors still threaten the preservation of biodiversity and the habitats in which they, and indigenous people, reside. If no action is taken, one million plant and animal species will become extinct in the near future.
SDG 15 aims to preserve ecosystems that are home to a wide variety of biodiversity and to protect plants and wildlife.
Targets and Indicators
SDG 15 has 12 targets, or subgoals, and 14 indicators, which are statistics that determine if the goal is being achieved or not. For example, target 15.1 aims to restore and conserve land and freshwater ecosystems by 2020. Another target, target 15.8, seeks to stop the spread of alien species in both land and water ecosystems. An example of an indicator is the proportion of forest area to total land area. Similarly, the number of countries adopting appropriate legislation and measures against invasive species is an indicator of target 15.8.
What’s already being done
Unfortunately, not much progress has been made towards SDG 15. In 2019, a report by the statistics division of the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs showed that land degradation still hurt billions of people and is driving extinction and climate change.
However, there are groups trying to help. The Forest and Farm Facility, or the FFF, is a partnership that provides funding and other resources to forest and farm producers, specifically smallholders, rural women’s groups, local communities, and indigenous people. For example, in Vietnam, the FFF and Vietnam National Farmers’ Union have collaborated to help farmers, who were relying on forests for 80% of their income. They taught them how to grow cinnamon in a way that does not harm the environment and is organic, which has increased their selling rate. The farmers receive a higher income than before, which keeps the forests protected.
Applying It: How everyone can help
Everyone can do their part to achieve SDG 15. Research companies that have sustainable packaging and other environmentally friendly practices. Ask your family and friends to start recycling and encourage everyone you know to bring their own bags when going grocery shopping. Use a set of reusable cutlery, straws, and a water bottle or canteen.
You can voice your support to your local and federal government as well. Not to mention, you can share how deforestation and land degradation impacts climate change and plant and wildlife diversity with others in your community. Organize a community garden or a tree planting event, and talk about why SDG 15 is important.