Soil-related sustainable development goals: Four concepts to make land degradation neutrality and restoration work

Saskia Keesstra*, Gerben Mol, Jan de Leeuw, Joop Okx, Co Molenaar, Margot de Cleen, Saskia Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

196 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In the effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to food, health, water, and climate, an increase in pressure on land is highly likely. To avoid further land degradation and promote land restoration, multifunctional use of land is needed within the boundaries of the soil-water system. In addition, awareness-raising, a change in stakeholders' attitudes, and a change in economics are essential. The attainment of a balance between the economy, society, and the biosphere calls for a holistic approach. In this paper, we introduce four concepts that we consider to be conducive to realizing LDN in a more integrated way: systems thinking, connectivity, nature-based solutions, and regenerative economics. We illustrate the application of these concepts through three examples in agricultural settings. Systems thinking lies at the base of the three others, stressing feedback loops but also delayed responses. Their simultaneous use will result in more robust solutions, which are sustainable from an environmental, societal, and economic point of view. Solutions also need to take into account the level of scale (global, national, regional, local), stakeholders' interests and culture, and the availability and boundaries of financial and natural capital. Furthermore, sustainable solutions need to embed short-term management in long-term landscape planning. In conclusion, paradigm shifts are needed. First, it is necessary to move from excessive exploitation in combination with environmental protection, to sustainable use and management of the soil-water system. To accomplish this, new business models in robust economic systems are needed based on environmental systems thinking; an approach that integrates environmental, social, and economic interests. Second, it is necessary to shift from a "system follows function" approach towards a "function follows system" one. Only by making the transition towards integrated solutions based on a socio-economical-ecological systems analysis, using concepts such as nature-based solutions, do we stand a chance to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality by 2030. To make these paradigm shifts, awareness-raising in relation to a different type of governance, economy and landscape and land-use planning and management is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number133
JournalLand
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2018

Keywords

  • Connectivity
  • Land degradation neutrality
  • Land use planning
  • Nature-based solutions
  • Regenerative economy
  • Soil-water system

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