I actually write quite regularly about terrestrial ecosystems. Even though I prefer marine destinations, I don’t live by the coastline. So terrestrial ecosystems are a lot more accessible. These have tended to be forest, because that’s the most common land ecosystem in my country. However, ever since I changed my travel style, I’ve also found myself in other landscapes such as desert and mountains. And of course, even island destinations often also have land biodiversity.

Similar to SDGs 12, 13 and 14, SDG 15 is also about ecosystem-scale consequences of an unprecedented number of humans industrially providing for our needs. While humans have modified landscapes to better suit our purposes for thousands of years, past efforts have tended to be self-limiting. If we went too far, eventually the landscape could no longer support the society in the long run, and it declines. Many cultures have risen and fallen in this way. But such mistakes have never threatened all cultures at the same time.

After the Industrial Age, we are modifying landscapes at an unprecedented speed and scale. Millions of hectares have been cleared to house people and feed them. Nearly all societies are doing it, in this same era. Agriculture alone drives 90% of deforestation.

Consequently, biodiversity loss is happening at an unprecedented rate, as well as soil loss and changes in rainfall patterns, affecting water resources and food production. Loss of carbon sink ecosystems also worsen the climate crisis, releasing even more carbon emissions that were previously locked in soils and biodiversity.

There are many different kinds of terrestrial ecosystems, and the pressures they face can be different. So the SDG targets reflect this variety of issues that require collaboration. But, just as with SDG 14, the objective is pretty simple. All the targets come down to restoring biodiversity and terrestrial ecosystems, and thus the stability of natural processes we depend on for food, water, and habitable landscapes.