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The atlas initiative: WAD

To address complex global challenges, decision makers and environmental managers have to be able to rely on up-to-date information on the state and trends of land degradation, its causes and effects, and be offered routes for solutions, such as sustainable land management options. The JRC is coordinating an international activity to compile a new global reference on where desertification and land degradation occurs: the World Atlas of Desertification (WAD). This endeavor is undertaken in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and in collaboration with a vast network of the best experts worldwide. The initiative was requested by stakeholder parties of the UN Convention for Combating Desertification (UNCCD), to which the European Commission and all EU Member States are signatory parties.

The new World Atlas of Desertification will be build on recent scientific advancements, and aims to be a pragmatic exercise and example of the implementation of up-to-date concepts. It follows on from the second version of the World Atlas of Desertification that dates back to 1997 and was published by UNEP. Since then, global environmental evaluations, such as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, have illustrated that land degradation and desertification are significant ongoing processes that result from and have an impact on multiple pressures caused by human-environment interactions. Increasingly, policies at national to global levels have been addressing these problems. Through diverse fora, scientists have explained the progress made in understanding and mitigating the problem. They have repeatedly drawn attention to the limited availability of consistent data on the spatial extent of land degradation and desertification and all of the factors involved, and to the lack of integrated assessments at wider scales.

As part of this initiative, the JRC has developed an integrated approach to this stocktaking exercise and has taken the lead in the development of a scientific, transparent and repeatable methodology for global assessment and mapping; a complex open challenge. As part of this initiative, the JRC has developed an integrated approach to this stocktaking exercise and has taken the lead in the development of a scientific, transparent and repeatable methodology for global assessment and mapping; a complex open challenge.

The World Atlas of Desertification also addresses the economic valuation of land degradation and options for sustainable land management. It therefore ties in directly with the initiative on the Economics of Land Degradation, launched by the European Ccommission (DG ENV) at the UNCCD COP10 meeting in Korea in October 2011.


Photo: M. Cherlet

Photo: B. Houskova

Photo: A. Brink
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Michael Cherlet: (+ 39) 0332 78 9982 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.