Global Dryland Ecosystem Programme (Global-DEP)

Period: 2017–2021
Funding sources: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Drylands occupy 51 million square kilometers, or 41%, of the world’s land area and are inhabited by about 38% of the world population. They are among the most sensitive and fragile ecosystems on the Earth’s surface with respect to significant impacts caused by climate change and inappropriate human activities simultaneously. Land degradation in drylands, or desertification, is pervasive and currently leading to a potential collapse of life support systems in some regions. It may also cause adverse impacts on non-dryland ecosystems and peoples. There is a global concern aroused by monitoring, assessment, and sustainable management of dryland ecosystems and their services for human well-being and livelihoods.

In February 2017, a joint research team was established in Beijing between four institutes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The team proposed a project to develop a Global Dryland Ecosystem Programme (Global-DEP) by working with international counterparts, with an endeavor to evolve into a core contribution to the Future Earthinitiative (see The project proposal has been approved by the Bureau of International Cooperation of CAS. UNEP-IEMP is sitting in the Global-DEP secretariat to coordinate this programme.

The project objectiveis to promote global research collaboration on dryland ecosystems and develop a Science Plan and an Implementation Plan for the Global-DEP. To identify common and key scientific issues in these plans, research activities for this project will be implemented in four work packages (WPs), which are: i) dynamics of global dryland ecosystems and their driving mechanisms, ii) changes in the structure and functions of global dryland ecosystems and their effects, iii) changes in the services of global dryland ecosystems and their linkages with human well-being, and iv) dryland ecosystem management and sustainable livelihoods.

The expected outputs are as follows:
 •   a global partnership established for the development and implementation of Global-DEP plans;
 •  up-to-date understanding on the paradigm of “ecosystem structure, function, service,and management” in drylands;
 •  cases and good practices collected for sustainable management of dryland ecosystems through systematic studies on typical dryland ecosystems around the world;
 •  global awareness and interests raised on dryland ecosystem research.