Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss



“Human life depends on the earth as much as the ocean for our sustenance and livelihoods. Plant life provides 80 percent of the human diet, and we rely on agriculture as an important economic resource. Forests cover 30 percent of the Earth’s surface, provide vital habitats for millions of species, and important sources for clean air and water, as well as being crucial for combating climate change”.

“Urgent action must be taken to reduce the loss of natural habitats and biodiversity which are part of our common heritage and support global food and water security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and peace and security”.

(Sustainable development goals: United Nations Development Programme: Goal 15 Life on Land)


Imbalances in Land Use: The value of ecosystems is immense (1). Biodiversity is the most complex feature of our planet and the most vital. “Without biodiversity, there is no future for humanity,” says Prof David Macdonald, Oxford University, as reported by The Guardian, March 2018 (2). The U.N. 2022 Land Report states ​​food systems are responsible for 80% of deforestation, 29% of greenhouse gas emissions and are the single largest cause of biodiversity loss on land (3). Livestock accounts for 77% of global farming land for feed crops and keeping animals (4). Oftentimes forests and wildlife habitats are repurposed for these means, creating substantial land opportunity costs (5). Land grabs threaten indigenous land guardianship (6), while industrial farming methodologies corrupt land health and food opportunities in developing countries (7). Forests are home to more than three-quarters of the world’s life on land (8), and play a critical role in mitigating climate change (9). The biggest direct driver of wildlife decline globally is the conversion of natural forests and grasslands into intensive agriculture and livestock (10). Yet only 55% of crop calories are actually consumed by people (11).

Fertilizers for AG Crops: In the early 1900s, farming practices turned to mono crops, and with the development of synthetic fertilizers, the industrialization of commodity crops and intensive animal agriculture led to soil degradation (12). The nitrogen and phosphorus concentration from fertilizers and livestock manure has overwhelmed the soil microbiome and resulted in stream bed pollution (13-14). While the long term use of synthetic and manure fertilizers combined with heavy machinery has resulted in the drying of the soil which has led to an increase in flooding, further washing away topsoil (15). Nitrates and harmful bacteria from animal waste and chemical waste from large scale animal facilities has infiltrated above and below groundwater (16) and gradually sifted into underground aquifers (17).

Insecticides, Herbicides, and Pesticides in AG: The use of insecticides (including bee-killing neonicotinoids) (18), has led to statistically significant reductions in bird biodiversity (19). These chemicals affect many species beyond those targeted through bioaccumulation or biomagnification, where persistent chemical ingestion over time or through the food chain reaches toxic levels. Wildlife may also be indirectly affected through deprivation of their primary food source, leading to a break-down of ecosystems (20). Some insecticides, such as herbicides, degrade quite slowly in nature, causing an accumulation in the soil and the environment, and increase the chances of accumulation and intensive affects (21).

Sustainable Food Systems: The 2018 IPCC report recommends that in western countries, beef consumption needs to fall by 90% and be replaced by five times more beans and pulses (22). While 27% of land is used for animal agriculture including feed crops, only 7% is used for food crops that are not animal feed (23). Mono crops are not conducive to good soil health, and 300 million farmed acres are planted with corn and soy. Nearly 47 percent of soybeans and 60 percent of corn grown in the United States go to feed livestock (24).

Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora: Even for medicinal purposes, the legal and illegal wildlife trade, exotic pet trade, plant horticulture trade, can have severe consequences on fragile ecosystems, with at least 100 million plants and animals trafficked internationally each year (25). Ecological diversity is essential for providing clean water, clean air, and nutrient rich soil, all of which are basic life sustaining resources (26).

Eradication of Wildlife Predators and Recreational Hunting: More than three-quarters of the 31 species of large land predators, such as lions and wolves, are in decline. This has a cascading effect, disrupting vegetation growth and upsetting populations of birds and small mammals (27). Predators can be singled out unfairly by animal agriculture (28), while other animals also get caught in traps, and the young left behind often don’t survive. The USDA department of Wildlife Services killed 1.75 million wild animals in 2021 in the interest of animal agriculture. Most were native wild animals, as well as some accidental killings of domestic animals (29). The decline of ecosystems lacking efficient numbers of wild predators has been well documented (30). Thus, in the interest of rewilding in order to encourage carbon uptake and improve biodiversity, scientists have offered a plan to reinstate wolves and beavers in the federal lands of the American Midwest (31).

The negative effects of Trophy or Recreational hunting are far-reaching (32). Trophy hunting is promoted by those who profit from it the most (33), including gun and hunting organizations (34-35), and poachers that are often based in places that lack local community control (36). The bulk of revenue from these exploits does not serve the local communities, nor does it help environmental conservation (37). These practices have caused environmental issues and biodiversity loss within important ecosystems (38). Two additional issues of sport hunting are canned trophy hunting, which is the unregulated practice of breeding and hunting animals in enclosures (39), and hunting killing contests, which are promoted as “pest control” measures and provide monetary rewards for the hunters with the highest number of kills (40).

Wild Habitat Exploitation: We must consider in great detail the adverse effects of exploitation of wildlife habitat. Loss of habitat has far-reaching impacts on the planet’s ability to sustain life (41). Since 1900, human production development has grown by 30 gigatons per year, until in 2020 human-made mass became much higher than nature’s biomass at a weight of about 1.1 teratones (more than the overall global biomass, and that’s not including our waste) (42). Through mining, deforestation, water pollution, airborne pollution, and infrastructure development, human encroachment has influenced the earth’s natural systems and so threatens the entire biosphere (43). In environmental ecosystem cycles, it is just as important to remember the vital role of insects (44), birds, and mammals. In our reliance on having clean water and growing food, we often think of bees first, however large mammals and even predators are essential to our survival (45).

Download the document below to read the full list of the latest citations of evidence as to how animal exploitation undermines the progress of SDG Goal 15: Life On Land


Further Reading:

Goal 15 : Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform (United Nations website)

“The 15 Worst Companies For The Planet” – The worst companies for the planet, as determined by Newsweek, are mostly utilities. It’s hard to live without electricity. One of the few exceptions is ConAgra (#4), the giant packaged food company. Jay Yarow Sep 23, 2009, 8:38 AM –

“Threats to Biodiversity” – Ecosystem conversion and ecosystem degradation contribute to habitat fragmentation. Habitat loss from exploitation of resources, agricultural conversion, and urbanization is the largest factor contributing to the loss of biodiversity. –

The age of extinction “Top scientists warn of ‘ghastly future of mass extinction’ and climate disruption” – “The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its life forms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts,” they write in a report in Frontiers in Conservation Science which references more than 150 studies detailing the world’s major environmental challenges. content Phoebe Weston, @phoeb0, Wed 13 Jan 2021 –

The age of extinction “’Tip of the iceberg’: is our destruction of nature responsible for Covid-19?” – As habitat and biodiversity loss increase globally, the coronavirus outbreak may be just the beginning of mass pandemics. “We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.” March 18, 2020 –

SCIENCE “Global wildlife trade causes decline of species abundance: study” – The scientists, including those from the University of Sheffield in the UK found that wildlife trade is causing declines of around 62% in the abundance of species, with endangered species suffering losses of over 80%. “Thousands of species are traded for pets, traditional medicines, and luxury foods, but how this impacts species’ abundances in the wild was unknown,” PTI, LONDON, FEBRUARY 17, 2021 12:30 IST, UPDATED: FEBRUARY 17, 2021 12:32 IST –

News “There’s an ecosystem beneath your feet—and it needs protection, new report says” – Reach down and scoop up some soil. Cupped in your hands may be 5000 different kinds of creatures—and as many individual cells as there are humans on the globe. Soil is a mix of organic material, minerals, gases, and other components that provide the substrate for plants to grow. About 40% of all animals find food, shelter, or refuge in soil during part of their life cycle. By Elizabeth PennisiDec. 4, 2020 , 4:00 AM –

“A Brief History of Our Deadly Addiction to Nitrogen Fertilizer” – Industrial agriculture’s reliance on plentiful synthetic nitrogen brings with it a whole bevy of environmental liabilities: excess nitrogen that seeps into streams and eventually into the Mississippi River, feeding a massive annual algae bloom that blots out sea life; emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon; and the destruction of organic matter in soil. By Tom Phipott
April 19, 2013 –

The briefing “What is biodiversity and why does it matter to us?” – At the moment, we don’t know how much biodiversity the planet can lose without prompting widespread ecological collapse. But one approach has assessed so-called “planetary boundaries”, thresholds in Earth systems that define a “safe operating space for humanity”. Of the nine considered, just biodiversity loss and nitrogen pollution are estimated to have been crossed, unlike CO2 levels, freshwater used and ozone losses. by Damian Carrington Environment editor, March 12, 2018 –