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Turning national restoration commitments into action involves systematic spatial planning and prioritization of areas for investment, which can be aided by the development of accessible methodologies used for identifying areas for intervention. To achieve restoration at the landscape level, efforts must focus on ecological recovery, where productivity and ecosystem services are recovered on degraded agricultural lands, to meet not only environmental objectives but socioeconomic objectives as well. This can be accomplished through the establishment of sustainable land-use systems (SLUS). As financial resources for restoration are limited, identifying areas where resources can be used efficiently to achieve particular restoration objectives is critical. This study presents a rapid approach to identifying and prioritizing degraded agricultural lands for low-cost ecological recovery using geospatial tools and publicly available remote sensing datasets. We apply the proposed methodology to Colombia, where we identify opportunities for cost-effective interventions on productive lands with light to moderate degradation based on biophysical indicators of soil degradation. In tandem, we identify areas experiencing underutilization, where SLUS can be used to sustainably intensify production, and overutilization, where SLUS can be used to mitigate soil degradation. We identify and map over 10.3 million ha of land with potential for ecological recovery. We find that the Caribbean region proportionally has a high prevalence of moderately degraded agricultural and agroforestry soils, while the Andean region has a high proportion of moderately degraded production forestry soils. Our results aid in the identification and prioritization of areas where multifunctional SLUS, such as agroforestry, agroecology or climate-smart agriculture, can be developed to restore productivity and ecosystem services to degraded agricultural lands.


Agroecological restoration; sustainable land-use systems; land degradation; GIS

Janelle Sylvester, Jefferson Valencia, Louis Verchot, Ngonidzashe Chirinda, Miguel Romero Sanchez, Augusto Castro-Nunez

Presentation within symposium:

S-28 Sustainable Land-Use Systems to foster simultaneously climate change mitigation, forest conservation, and Colombian peacebuilding goals

A rapid approach for informing the prioritization of degraded agricultural
lands for ecological recovery: A case study for Colombia


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