Assessing the Realization of Global Land Restoration: A Meta-analysis

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Restoring degraded land is essential for regaining ecosystem services (ES) and attaining the UN-Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Unfortunately, 24% of the global lands are degraded, significantly affecting the lives of 3.2 billion people worldwide. Therefore, innovative restoration practices are vital during ‘UN-Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.’ A meta-analysis of 2093 documents on land degradation and restoration was conducted in this context, and 117 empirical studies were analyzed in detail. These studies were based on the different drivers of land degradation as per the criteria of IPBES and IPCC, respectively. Results suggested that woodland encroachment (18.25%), cropland expansion (18.11%), species loss/compositional shifts (16.06%), climatic factors (14.96%), infrastructure development/urbanization (14.17%), water erosion (13.87%), wind erosion (9.49%) and other demographic pressures (8.66%) were the significant drivers of land degradation. Interestingly, there was a continent-wide change in the critical drivers of land degradation and depleting ES. The infrastructure development/urbanization, demography, and economic attributes were the essential drivers in Asia–Pacific and African regions. In contrast, the fire-regime shift and invasiveness were the significant drivers in Europe, and the climatic attribute was the crucial driver in the Americas. Out of the 117 studies selected worldwide, some ongoing restoration efforts had little emphasis on research-driven on-site restoration for improving different ES. Furthermore, some restoration projects lack proper stakeholder involvement thereby, fail to attract large-scale public acceptance. Moreover, only 12.8% of the studies focused on improving the ES in highly degraded lands. Therefore, this meta-analysis suggests that site-specific, research-driven, and on-site restoration strategies coupled with proper stakeholder engagement are imperative for regaining the ES and functions of the degraded landscape to attain UN-SDG.

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