Development of a Land Degradation Neutral analytics software tool

Time frame: August 2020 – and ongoing

Challenge

The pace of loss of natural capital is alarming. The sooner we are able to harmonize human needs with consideration to competing interests in land, land productivity trends, climate change and other risk factors, the faster we can work to achieve land degradation neutrality. There is no magic bullet for this, but the interconnections and trade-offs that exists within landscapes must be factored into new policies and investment decisions. With the right technologies – as well as action by corporates, civil society and government actors, empowered by such technologies – transformation is possible.

With this belief, Altus Impact joined the GEO-LDN competition in August 2020 – an international technology innovation competition to design and build software analytics solutions to support more transparent and well-informed land use decisions at the local to national level across the globe.

In collaboration with NGO consortium members, notably, Groundswell International, Partenariat du Développement Local (PDL) and Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD), in respectively the US, Haiti and Ghana, we developed LDN analytics software tool to help countries achieve their land degradation neutrality targets and meet SDG 15 ‘life on land’. 

With much excitement we made it to the second place of the competition at the UNCCD CRIG meeting March 2021 and will benefit from funding to finalise the tool  finalize the tool by the end of 2021.

Functionalities

The prototype of the tool is built in Google Earth Engine and can be used for any country or sub-national region in the world to track progress on reversing land degradation using SDG indicator 15.3.1. The tool builds on peer-reviewed literature, latest earth observations and best practice guidelines. In operating the tool, users can decide on the baseline and the timeframe of interest (from 2009 and onwards…) and visualize:

  • Sources of land degradation or land regeneration, deriving fromchanges in tree canopy cover density and land cover transitions, e.g. from cropland to forestland or grassland and vice versa;
  • Trends in net primary productivityof land within all major land cover classes, such as forestland, grasslands and croplands.       
  • High priority intervention areas from an agro-ecological perspective– such as immediate and long-term drought and erosion risk.
  • Areas where restoration efforts may be jeopardized, e.g. due to the high fire risks.

Outputs and Impact

By overlaying different information layers within Google Earth Engine, tool users can: 

  • Visualize changes and evaluate the effectiveness of land use interventions  – for example, aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity or mitigating fire risks.
  • Identify areas, where it may be important to intervene, for example, to avoid further land degradation and attenuate the impacts of climate change.

In terms of further development, more layers will be built in to allow users to identify landscape restoration opportunities, climate change projections and areas of high biodiversity value.  Further development will also allow users to estimate potential economic benefits from the adaptation of sustainable land management practices. 

By making data easily accessible and understandable our ultimate goal is to facilitate decision making processes over land uses and make Land Degradation Neutrality achievable.

For a rapid introduction to the tool, see our three-minute pitch here: https://we.tl/t-L8yzDIxaSU

& play around with the ‘basic’ version here

Interested in knowing more? Get in touch!

This is work in progress, so please get in touch if you have inputs, desired tool features or questions !