About 20 per cent of the planet’s land area has seen a decline in productivity with fertility losses linked to erosion, soil depletion and pollution. Vegetative cover is consistently declining, affecting forests, croplands, grasslands and rangelands. We have lost around 70 million hectares of forests since 2000 and have seen desertification advancing into fertile lands in many areas.
We have witnessed the loss of 70 per cent of our wetlands over the last century, leading to localized biodiversity losses and devastating water shortages. Mangrove wetlands are disappearing three to five times faster than overall global forest losses, with serious ecological and socio-economic impacts. Current estimates indicate that mangrove coverage has been halved in the past 40 years.
Our oceans and coasts have suffered from over-fishing, damaging coastal development, bleaching of coral reefs and degradation of the seabed. Seagrasses, on which dugongs and other animals depend, are also declining because of human activity. Dead zones arise around major river deltas due to excessive land-based nutrient pollution. All of this is contributing to declining fish catches as marine and estuarine systems struggle to support life.
Ecosystem restoration generates tangible benefits for food and water security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and can prevent conflict and migration triggered by environmental degradation. Between now and 2030, the restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems could generate US$9 trillion in ecosystem services. Restoration could also remove 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The economic benefits of such interventions exceed ten times the cost of investment, whereas inaction is at least three times more costly than ecosystem restoration.