Global Dryland Ecosystem Programme (Global-DEP)

The Global-DEP provides a platform for global research collaboration on dryland ecosystems, so as to support the delivery of Sustainable Development Goals including target 15.3 in drylands worldwide.
Project Brief
Project Name: Global Dryland Ecosystem Programme (Global-DEP)
Geographic coverage:Africa, Australia, Central Asia, Mediterranean Region, and North and South America
Funding Source: International Partnership Programme of Chinese Academy of Sciences
Project Period: 2017-2021
Project Status: Ongoing

Drylands are found on all continents of the world; covering 41% of the global land surface and supporting 40% of global population. They also hold approximately a third of biodiversity hotspots and provide habitat for 28% of endangered species. Though these lands are diverse and their peoples are innovative in the face of tough environments, they are especially sensitive and vulnerable to rapid rates of physical and social changes. Water crisis, land degradation, and/or desertification is pervasive and leading to a potential collapse of life support systems in some drylands. It has posed far-reaching impacts on the livelihoods of marginalized peoples locally, and drive migration, unrest and economic instability at regional and global levels. Both local communities and institutions and global policy systems need to innovate with the support of actionable research, in order to help drylands become more resilient and avoid increasingly catastrophic disruptions due to future change.


Understanding the dynamics, structure, functions and services of dryland ecosystems is critical for addressing the vulnerability, resilience, livelihoods and sustainability of humans in the context of the 2015 SDGs. Through synthesizing research across the world and analysing scientific evidence for best practices, the overall goals of Global-DEP are as follows:

  • Improve understanding on how dryland SESs will respond to ongoing global environmental changes worldwide; and
  • Promote research that facilitates the development of pathways towards enhanced resilience and sustainable development in dryland SESs to achieve the SDGs.

Within these two goals, the main research objectives of Global-DEP are as follows:

  • Quantify the magnitude and direction of changes and feedbacks of dryland ecosystems to the earth system and societal processes;
  • Determine the factors controlling vulnerability and resilience of dryland SESs to natural and human disturbances;
  • Reveal the impact of global environmental changes on ecosystem services, human well-being, and SES dynamics in drylands; and
  • Promote research-based solutions to dryland ecosystem man-agement and policy aiming to achieve a sustainable development of dryland SESs worldwide.
Actions & Expected Outcomes

The Global-DEP aims to facilitate global research collaboration on dryland SESs that engages global researchers, practitioners and policymakers in developing a science plan to support dryland ecosystem management and sustainable livelihoods, as well as an action plan to secure funding for programme implementation. Main activities and milestones may include:

  • To organize various regional consultations to gain inputs for developing a conceptual framework, including a set of timely research priorities, as a basis of the science plan;
  • To revisit and update the conceptual framework regularly to reflect research progress and new requirements as a living synthesis of the research priorities in drylands;
  • To complete global consultations and launch the science plan during 2021;
  • To initiate the implementation of the science plan, by conducting survey and assessment on typical dryland ecosystems in Central Asia, Mediterranean Region, Africa, North and South America, and Australia, respectively. 

The Global-DEP was formally approved as a key international cooperation project by the International Cooperation Bureau of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in August 2017. The Global-DEP Interim Scientific Committee is co-chaired by Prof. Bojie Fu from the RCEES of CAS and Dr. Mark Stafford Smith from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia. The Secretariat of the Global-DEP Interim Scientific Committee is hosted by the Synthesis Research Center of Chinese Ecosystem Research Network (CERN) with support from UNEP-IEMP.

For more information, please contact: Dr. Xiubo Yu,