Sustainable Development Goal 15

Life on Land

Nearly a third of the globe is covered by forests, which are home to 80 per cent of all land species of animals, plants, and insects. Forests and agricultural systems sustain our air, water, and food, but extreme deforestation and land degradation are threatening vital biodiversity and the billions of people who depend on the land for their livelihoods.

UNU’s terrestrial research examines the intersections of ecosystem change and resource use to find sustainable human–environment solutions. Our work in the Mekong River Delta, for example, is guiding agricultural innovation for local farmers in response to the impacts of climate change and saltwater intrusion. Our land restoration training programme provides students from developing countries with practical education on degradation and desertification, land restoration, and sustainable land management.


Berglind Orradottir

Berglind Orradottir


“Land provides us with essential goods like food, energy, and clean air. Overexploitation of land has degraded these goods — but we can change this situation. By providing quality education on land restoration for professionals working in the field, we inspire sustainable solutions for the future.”

Osamu Saito


“Human well-being depends on the diverse benefits of nature. My research at UNU delves into this value — both tangible and intangible — to transform today’s society into a more sustainable one that can adapt to global climate and ecosystem changes.”

Yvonne Walz


“Floods and droughts can be a disaster for the people affected by them. One event alone can undermine the sustainable development of an entire area. I’m passionate about determining which communities and ecosystems are most at risk and why. In doing so I hope to develop solutions to reduce risk.”


Sustainable Adaptation of Coastal Agro-ecosystems to Increased Salinity Intrusion

River deltas are fertile and highly populated landscapes. They are also at risk due to the effects of climate change. The DeltAdapt research project analyses the environmental and social changes occurring to delta ecosystems to help farmers maintain their livelihoods.

Predicting and Assessing Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services

This research project uses an integrated social-ecological systems approach to assess terrestrial and marine natural capital and ecosystem services, and their governance, in Japan.

Agrodiversity and Sustainability

Agrodiversity refers to the dynamic ways farmers use environmental diversity for livelihoods, including crop selection, and management of land, water, and biota. Building on UNU's past experience, this project focuses on the potential of agrodiversity in forest management to address climate change and biodiversity loss in mountainous mainland Southeast Asia.