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Healthy forests and terrestrial ecosystems provide services critical for people and economies, such as biodiversity habitat, clean water, climate regulation, erosion prevention, crop pollination, soil fertility, and flood control.

Deforestation and forest and land degradation, however, are threatening these ecosystem services and reducing the productivity of 23 percent of global land cover. Land degradation impacts an estimated 3.2 billion people worldwide, and some 40 percent of the world’s poorest live on degraded land (IPBES 2019).

Approximately 12% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to deforestation and forest degradation. The 2019 IPCC special report on Climate Change and Land affirmed that planting forests and protecting existing forests is key to limiting global warming to 1.5ºC or well below 2ºC increase. Such investment is urgently needed as many of the world’s remaining forests are increasingly threatened by activities such as agricultural expansion, timber extraction, and fuelwood collection. The IPBES estimates that investment in nature-based solutions could contribute about 37 percent of the climate change mitigation needed by 2030 generating jobs and biodiversity co-benefits.

Goods from forests and terrestrial ecosystems provide an important hidden harvest for rural populations, keeping many people out of extreme poverty. An estimated 4.17 billion people – 95 percent of all people outside urban areas – live within 5 km of a forest, and 3.27 billion live within 1 km. In many tropical countries, forest-adjacent people earn about one-quarter of their income from forests. (FAO, 2022)

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of healthy forests and terrestrial ecosystems. More than 30 percent of new diseases reported since 1960 are attributed to land-use change, including deforestation, and 15 percent of 250 emerging infectious diseases have been linked to forests. Deforestation, particularly in the tropics, has been associated with an increase in infectious diseases such as dengue fever and malaria (FAO, 2022) Clearing forests for agriculture, extractive industries, urbanization and other land uses causes the loss or degradation of habitat, bringing humans and wildlife into closer contact and increasing the risk of  infectious diseases such as SARS, Ebola and HIV. Now, more than ever, do we see the urgent need for an integrated or “one health” approach to landscape management that collectively considers human, animal, and ecosystem health.

Forests and terrestrial ecosystems can also contribute to building back better by supporting livelihoods for communities and providing much-needed employment opportunities for vulnerable populations. Some of the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population live in fragile natural resource environments. In the short term, these communities can receive income support through land rehabilitation and forest work schemes. Landscape programs can be scaled up further to create jobs, support livelihoods and market access, food security and long-term natural resource resilience. Such projects support participatory community resource management mechanisms and direct investments in economic activities.

Building on its previous Forest Action Plan, the World Bank Group has developed a Forest and Landscape Approach that takes a holistic look at terrestrial landscapes, working across sectors like agriculture, transport and energy to generate positive outcomes for development, biodiversity, ecosystem services, climate change mitigation and adaptation on forest and other terrestrial ecosystems.

PROGREEN, a global partnership for sustainable and resilient landscapes launched in 2019, supports countries’ efforts to improve livelihoods and strengthen investment in management and conservation of forests and all terrestrial ecosystems, biodiversity conservation, landscape restoration, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.  Through an integrated landscape approach, PROGREEN helps countries meet their national and global sustainable development goals and commitments, including poverty reduction, in a cost-effective manner at scale.

Last Updated: Dec 16,2022

Additional Resources

Contacts

Laura Ivers
Washington D.C.