UNEP launches a virtual journey through three unique desert ecosystems

REUTERS/Hans Lucas /

Deserts and drylands are often far from the barren images they are known for. These ecosystems play a vital role in climate regulation – nearly 46 per cent of global carbon is stored in drylands. Despite the harsh conditions, they are home to over 2 billion people and harbor some of the world’s rarest biodiversity. Many deserts contain hidden water bodies that sustain several species of flora and fauna.

To raise awareness about these unique but often overlooked ecosystems; the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) has launched a Wild for Life virtual journey through three unique deserts: the rocky Gobi Desert in Central Asia; Wadi Rum in Jordan and the expansive Sahara Desert.

The blazing sand dunes in the deserts provide nature-based livelihoods for local communities through eco-tourism. However, climate change, combined with erosion and degradation of surrounding areas is causing these deserts to expand.

Sustainable pastoralism, by herding communities, helps combat desertification, land degradation and drought in rangelands; while conserving biodiversity and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals. With one million species are at risk of extinction, biodiversity is a key priority for UNEP. As the world faces the stark reality that none of the Aichi targets were met and prepares for a new, ambitious post-2020 framework, the issue is gaining urgency and international momentum.

The virtual desert journey showcases how these valuable ecosystems contribute to biodiversity – and the human activities that are threatening their survival. Read more…

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