Change language
Sidebar content Main content

Good practice guidance SDG Indicator 15.3.1. Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area


In the last decade, there have been a number of global/regional targets and initiatives to halt and reverse land degradation and restore degraded land. Starting in 2010, these include the CBD’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets, one of which aims to restore at least 15% of degraded ecosystems; the Bonn Challenge and its regional initiatives to restore more than 150 million hectares; and most recently the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The 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 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 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the custodian agency for SDG indicator 15.3.1 (“Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area”) which was proposed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG indicators (IAEG-SDGs) and adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC) in March 2017 to monitor progress towards achieving SDG target 15.3.

The UNCCD and its key partner, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), have convened an inter-agency advisory group to develop and refine the methodology and data options contained in this Good Practice Guidance (GPG) for SDG indicator 15.3.1. The group also includes the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations Environment (UNEP) and the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD).

SDG indicator 15.3.1 will be reported as a binary (i.e., degraded/not degraded) quantification based primarily, and to the largest extent possible, on comparable and standardized national official data sources. This GPG aims to assist countries in implementing the methodology for deriving SDG indicator 15.3.1 (“the indicator”) by calculating and assessing changes in i) land cover, ii) land productivity and iii) carbon stocks (“the sub-indicators”) in concert.
The methodology is intended to be universal, allowing countries to select the most appropriate datasets for the sub-indicators and determine the most suitable pathway for deriving the indicator. This GPG also recognizes that any significant negative change in the sub-indicators pointing to land degradation is context specific and to be determined by national authorities based on a convergence of evidence, i.e, complemented with other indicators, data and information.

This GPG describes the methods to process and interpret data from available sources that can be used to support countries in their assessment and quantification of land degradation. While it difficult for a single indicator to fully capture the state or condition of the land, the sub-indicators are proxies to monitor the key factors and driving variables that reflect the capacity of the land to deliver ecosystem services. In this regard, this GPG assists countries in accessing and interpreting a wide range of data sources for the sub-indicators, including Earth observation and geospatial information, while at the same time ensuring national ownership. The UNCCD reporting template includes the indicator and sub-indicators. Thus, the use of the UNCCD’s national reports provides a practical and harmonized approach by which countries can report on the indicator beginning in 2018 and every four years thereafter.1

The quantitative assessments and corresponding mapping at the national level, as required by the indicator, will help countries to set policy and planning priorities among diverse land resource areas, in particular to (1) identify hotspots and plan actions of redress, including through the conservation, rehabilitation, restoration and sustainable management of land resources, and (2) address emerging pressures in order to help avoid future land degradation.

The One Out, All Out (1OAO)12 principle is applied taking into account changes in the sub-indicators which are depicted as (i) positive or improving, (ii) negative or declining, or (iii) stable or unchanging. 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 it would be considered as degraded subject to validation by national authorities.
Lead Authors
Neil C. Sims (CSIRO), Carly Green (GFOI), Glenn J. Newnham (CSIRO), Jacqueline R. England (CSIRO), Alex Held (CSIRO), Mike A. Wulder (Natural Resources Canada), Martin Herold (Wageningen University), Simon J. D. Cox (CSIRO), Alfredo R. Huete (University of Technology, Sydney), Lalit Kumar (University of New South Wales), Raphael A. Viscarra-Rossel (CSIRO), Stephen H. Roxburgh (CSIRO), Neil J. McKenzie (CSIRO).

Copy numberShelfmarkLoan categorySiteLoan status
CCD/IMP/777 ECCD/IMP/777 EBookmainavailable
AIS uses strictly necessary cookies to improve the user experience.
This AIS also uses analytical cookies.