Towards integrated social-ecological sustainability indicators: Exploring the contribution and gaps in existing global data

Author(s): Selomane, O., B. Reyers, R. Biggs, H. Tallis, S. Polasky
In: Ecological Economics 118: 140–146
Year: 2015
Type: Journal / article
Theme affiliation: Stewardship
Link to centre authors: Biggs, Reinette (Oonsie)
Full reference: Selomane, O., B. Reyers, R. Biggs, H. Tallis, S. Polasky. 2015. Towards integrated social-ecological sustainability indicators: Exploring the contribution and gaps in existing global data. Ecological Economics 118: 140–146.

Summary

Sustainable development goals (SDGs), which recognise the interconnections between social, economic and ecological systems, have ignited new interest in indicators able to integrate trends in – and interactions between – nature and socio-economic development. We explore whether existing global data can be used to measure nature's contribution to development targets and explore limitations in these data. Using Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1– eradicate extreme hunger and poverty.

We develop two indicators to assess the contribution of nature to progress in this goal. The indicators (based on income and employment data from nature-based sectors (NBS) represented by agriculture, forestry and fisheries) show large but declining contributions of nature to MDG 1: NBS contributed to lifting 18% of people out of poverty and provided 37% of global employment between 1991 and 2010.

For low income countries, the contributions were 20% and 55% respectively. In exploring data gaps the study highlighted low reporting rates especially in low income countries, as well as lack of other measures of poverty alleviation beyond income and employment. If we are to move beyond target setting to implementation of sustainable development goals at national scales, these shortcomings require as much attention as the elaboration and agreement on the post-2015 development goals.

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