Dryland Ecosystem Restoration and Sustainable land Management

IUCN supports restoration and sustainable management of dryland ecosystems through enhanced land use strategies, effective natural resource governance and improved understanding of dryland ecology. This includes promoting sustainable development and ecosystem-based adaptation in the drylands, through partnership with communities and civil society, government and intergovernmental organisations, and the private sector.

 Drylands are not only dry but they are also characterised by extraordinarily high levels of climatic uncertainty. Variations in annual rainfall of as much as 50% of the mean are unremarkable – the deviation may be far in excess of this in drought or wet years – and variability is equally great across dryland landscapes. Dryland ecosystems and societies are well adapted to this variability, but in many cases these adaptations are under pressure. Sustainable land management practices that were formerly widespread in the drylands have been compromised by a variety of factors, including weakening of local governance, poorly-informed land use changes and demographic shifts. These changes have been driven by a variety of policies including some that were deliberately designed to change dryland management strategies and others that lead indirectly to such outcomes.

Restoring ecosystems and sustainable land management practices is often essential to ensure resilient livelihoods. This requires effective natural resource governance at local, national and international levels. It also requires support to integrate new science and ideas into local land use strategies and development of markets and other services that enable sustainable drylands management: for example, markets for sustainably managed biodiversity. Sustainable land management often also requires partnerships between communities, government, civil society, and the private sector to establish more sustainable dryland policies and investments with more equitable benefit sharing.



Photo: Clara Herreros Murueta-Goyena / IUCN


Ecosystem processes that influence productivity, fertility and water cycles are controlled by both the diversity and identity of the plant, animal, and microbial species living within a community. Poor ecosystem management can modify the living biological community in an ecosystem, as well as the collective biodiversity of the drylands, and can therefore alter ecological functions and life support services that are vital to the well-being of dryland peoples. IUCN uses an ecosystem approach to promote integrated natural resource planning that protects the natural ecosystem functions and services that are integral to ecosystem health.

More than two billion hectares of land worldwide is suitable for rehabilitation through forest and landscape restoration. Of that, 1.5 billion hectares would be best suited to mosaic restoration, in which forests and trees are combined with other land uses, including agroforestry and smallholder agriculture. In order for communities to take control of their natural resources and manage them sustainably certain conditions must be met. Our work emphasises the rights, responsibilities and institutional reforms that are needed to enable different actors to effectively manage the natural resources on which they depend.

Dryland Opportunities (Publication)
  • Dryland opportunities : a new paradigm for people, ecosystems and development

    Dryland opportunities : a new paradigm for people, ecosystems and development

    Photo: Drylands Initiative

EC Desertification Project
  • Project Sites

    Project Sites

    Photo: Jonathan Davies/IUCN



    Photo: unccd

  • CEL logo

    CEL logo

    Photo: IUCN Environmental Law Programme

  • CEM logo

    CEM logo

    Photo: IUCN