Rapid overview of global ecosystem services from agricultural landscapes

Rapid overview of global ecosystem services from agricultural landscapes

Client: IUCN | May - July, 2019



Altus Impact is contributing to a major upcoming IUCN report, on the case for improving land health for agriculture to be published in 2020. The report will provide evidence and analysis to support stronger dialogue between conservation and agricultural actors around sustainability in the food and agricultural sectors.

As part of the consultancy we analyzed the global impacts of adopting the 4‰ Initiative, which calls for an annual increase of 0.4% in soil organic carbon stocks on farmed lands. This can be achieved through diverse Sustainable Land management practices, (including low-till, agroforestry, rotations use of organic manure, intercropping, use of legumes, livestock and cropping). Altus impact analysed how worldwide soil carbon stocks, agricultural yields and soil water retention are affected by such practices and the economic consequences.

The 4‰ Initiative was launched in France on 1 December 2015 at the UNFCCC COP 21 with the aim of demonstrating that agricultural soils can play a crucial role in improving food security and mitigating climate change.


Whilst the result of this study will published in 2020, Altus Impact has developed a fast-track analytical routine and transferable methodology to evaluate, for any location of the globe, the potential benefits of enhanced soil carbon sequestration for any initiative or target aiming to increase soil carbon.  For more information about this service. see our blog “Soil-Carbon – what we can offer”.


The time has come for agricultural sector to be appreciated for its double-sided role in climate change processes. With it growing contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, the opportunities to mitigate emissions through farming need to be embraced, to keep global warming to between 1.5 °C and 2 °C by the end of the century.

Our study shows that the economic impacts of adopting sustainable land management – in terms of food and water security and avoided damages from climate change – are considerable.

Most countries have not yet implemented policies or agricultural policy measures to reduce emissions from agriculture, nor considered the co-benefits of doing so. The analyses provided here comes at an opportune time to inform this policy development. With this contribution we hope to raise awareness about the case for using the agricultural sector as a lever to adapting and mitigation to climate change mitigation.

Interested in reading more, please consult:

Costa, L., Westerberg V., (2019). The simulated global and nation-specific benefits of adopting the “4 per 1000” initiative. The value of irrigation savings, yield improvement and climate change mitigation. Report for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.


Larbodière, L., Davies, J., Schmidt, R., Magero, C., Vidal, Arroyo Schnell, A., Bucher, P., Maginnis, S., Cox, N., Hasinger, O., Abhilash, P.C., Conner, N., Westerberg, V., Costa, L. (2020). Common ground: restoring land health for sustainable agriculture. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.




[1] The initiative has the goal of increasing soil organic carbon annually by 4‰ of its current stock through the implementation of sound agronomic practices.