May 08th 2024

SDG: Goal 15 Life on land

SDG: Goal 15 Life on land: The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is crucial for the well-being of society and the continuation of our economy, even for our very survival. However, it is unfortunate that statistics show a continuing decline in biodiversity and a loss of forests. These forest losses directly threaten human well-being, with the poorest rural people, including indigenous and local communities, being particularly affected. Evidence shows that biodiversity and forests contribute significantly to poverty reduction by ensuring food security and health, providing clean air and water, and absorbing carbon emissions. In fact, biodiversity and forests are the cornerstones of ecological development.

Goal 15 calls for the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems. By 2020, deforestation should be halted and damaged forests restored. Global reforestation should be significantly increased. We must also combat desertification by 2030 and restore areas affected by desertification, droughts and floods. In order to protect biodiversity, Goal 15 calls for urgent measures to end poaching and the trade in protected plant and animal species.

The goals at a glance

It is crucial to preserve intact terrestrial ecosystems and to conserve, restore and sustainably use their services to humanity. The decline of natural habitats and the loss of biodiversity must be urgently curbed in order to protect the foundations of our well-being.

However, effective environmental legislation alone is not enough; it must also be consistently enforced to ensure the protection of these ecosystems. In particular, we need to halt deforestation and promote sustainable management of forests to preserve and revitalize their vital functions.

The fight against desertification is another important goal that we must strive for. We need to restore degraded lands and soils to combat the effects of desertification, droughts and land degradation.

Another critical step is to curb poaching and illegal trade in protected species. Only through strict measures can we ensure the survival of endangered species and restore the balance of ecosystems.

In addition, we need to integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into our planning, policies and accounting systems. Only by recognizing the importance of these values and incorporating them into our decision-making processes can we ensure long-term sustainable development.

Finally, it is crucial to promote access to genetic resources and ensure equitable benefit-sharing. This is not only a question of justice, but also a prerequisite for the sustainable use of biodiversity and the promotion of innovation and development.

Where are we right now?

The alarming facts are on the table: deforestation, species extinction and the destruction of ecosystems are relentlessly increasing and pose an existential threat to our planet and humanity.

Every day, up to 150 plant and animal species disappear from the earth, and this species extinction is happening 100 times faster than natural due to human influence. The expansion of agriculture is at the forefront of this and is responsible for almost 90 percent of the loss of forest areas. Increasing land degradation is exacerbating food and water shortages worldwide and is already directly affecting 1.3 billion people.

The United Nations is sounding the alarm: SDG 15, the goal for the conservation of terrestrial ecosystems, will not be achieved unless we make drastic changes to the way we treat nature. The ongoing destruction of our natural resources and biodiversity endangers not only the current generation, but also future generations.

If SDG 15 is missed, around 80 percent of all other sustainability goals will also be jeopardized, including food security, access to clean water and the fight against climate change. Without the preservation of tropical forests, the ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius simply cannot be achieved.

The coronavirus pandemic has once again shown us how close the link is between the destruction of habitats and the occurrence of zoonoses. The trade in wild animals has come under the spotlight. Unfortunately, this opportunity to take biodiversity into account in efforts to tackle the crisis and mitigate the risk of future pandemics has barely been seized. Biodiversity has been largely neglected in global economic recovery efforts.

It is time for us to realign our priorities and take a respectful and sustainable approach to our environment. Otherwise, we risk not only the loss of irreplaceable life forms, but also our own future.

The situation in Germany

Agriculture is a major player in Germany and accounts for almost half of the country’s land. However, the increasing intensification of production and the expansion of settlement areas are putting considerable pressure on nature. Every day in Germany, around 90 soccer pitches are lost to traffic and development – an alarming trend.

The use of heavy machinery in agriculture leaves its mark by damaging the soil and promoting erosion and the loss of soil fertility. Fertilizers also pose a serious threat to soil and groundwater. The low biodiversity on agricultural land significantly limits the availability of animal food sources and habitats.

The current issue of insect mortality, which is the subject of intense debate in Germany, is particularly worrying. It is a worrying example of the dramatic loss of biodiversity. Insect researchers have identified a decline in 96 percent of species, which not only has consequences for agriculture – in many places there are no longer enough insects to pollinate the fields naturally – but also throws entire ecosystems out of balance. The decline in insects also has a direct impact on the bird population, whose numbers have fallen by 40 percent, as insects are an essential source of food.

And internationally?

Internationally, the situation in terms of land use and agriculture is diverse, but there are some general trends that are emerging worldwide.

Firstly, agriculture occupies a large area of the global land mass, with some regions, such as parts of Europe, being used more intensively than others. The impacts of this land use are diverse, ranging from habitat fragmentation to land degradation.

Secondly, the intensification of agriculture often leads to environmental problems such as soil erosion, water pollution from fertilizers and pesticides, and loss of biodiversity. This can have both local and global impacts, as biodiversity is crucial for the stability of ecosystems and for the provision of important services such as pollination and water storage.

Thirdly, many countries are affected by the expansion of settlement areas and infrastructure projects, which also leads to the fragmentation and destruction of natural habitats.

With regard to insect mortality, which is being discussed in Germany, this is a global phenomenon observed in many parts of the world. The decline in insect populations has far-reaching ecological consequences and affects not only agriculture but also ecosystems as a whole.

Overall, the international situation regarding land use and agriculture shows that sustainable management of resources is urgently needed to protect the environment and maintain the long-term viability of our ecosystems.

What can we do?

A number of concrete measures are needed to address these global problems. First of all, it is essential to protect at least 30 percent of terrestrial ecosystems. This is a crucial step in preserving biodiversity and protecting vital ecosystems. At the same time, we must work hard to restore degraded ecosystems, especially forest landscapes, which play a key role in the fight against climate change.

Mobilizing private sector capital for forest conservation is also crucial. Through innovative financing mechanisms, we can mobilize the necessary resources to protect forests and at the same time create economic incentives for companies.

Another important step is the abolition of subsidies that are harmful to the climate and biodiversity, both here and in our partner countries. These subsidies distort the markets and often promote the unsustainable use of resources.

To improve biodiversity conservation in agriculture and other managed ecosystems, we need to promote sustainable practices and significantly reduce the use of pesticides. At the same time, it is essential to drastically reduce plastic waste in order to combat pollution.

The trade in wild animals and plants must be exclusively legal and sustainable to ensure the protection of endangered species. Indigenous peoples and other local communities should receive a fair share of the profits from the use of natural resources and their rights must be respected.

Finally, it is crucial to respect human rights and in particular the rights of indigenous peoples in nature conservation. The principle of prior free and informed consent should be made mandatory worldwide to ensure that conservation measures do not negatively impact local communities.


Overall, it is clear that the protection and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems is an urgent global priority. The challenges at hand are manifold and require a coordinated and determined response at the international level.

We need to focus on protecting at least 30 percent of terrestrial ecosystems and restoring degraded ecosystems, especially forests. This requires not only political commitments, but also the mobilization of private capital for the conservation of forests and other natural habitats.

In addition, we need to move away from climate and biodiversity-damaging subsidies and instead incentivize sustainable practices. This applies in particular to agriculture, where a reduction in pesticide use and plastic waste is urgently needed.

The trade in wild animals and plants must be strictly regulated to ensure the protection of endangered species. At the same time, indigenous and local communities must receive a fair share of the benefits from the use of natural resources and their rights must be fully respected.

Overall, we need to ensure that conservation measures are in line with human rights and that local communities are actively involved. This is the only way to ensure a sustainable future for our planet and future generations.

The overview of the 17 goals can be read here

Overview of the 17 goals


You can find information from the United Nations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) here:

Information from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development can be found here:

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