The Asia-Pacific region faces a fundamental dilemma. Over recent decades the region has achieved tremendous economic growth that has lifted millions of its people out of poverty and raised living standards, but in many places the way land is being used to generate this growth is unsustainable. Land has been exploited – growing economies regardless of the costs to biodiversity and ecosystem services. For biodiversity, the impacts are alarming – almost 25% of the region’s endemic species are at risk – and threats are growing. For ecosystem services, the impacts are no less severe: over 2,500 million ha of land are degraded, four fifths of rivers are polluted and the region is quickly losing its major terrestrial sinks and stores of greenhouse gases, namely its forests and peat lands. If the causes of unsustainable land use are not addressed with a greater sense of urgency, the consequences will become increasingly severe. Unsustainable land use is driving climate change, and simultaneously increasing the region’s vulnerability by decreasing options for adaptation.
This report – “Asia-Pacific landscape transformations – Solutions for sustainability” – was motivated by the stark and rapid changes in landscapes that can be observed across the region and their consequences. It was also motivated by a lack of appropriate visions of sustainable landscapes in policy and decision-making, and the need for better understanding of integrative approaches that can help realise these visions. It argues that a vision of sustainable landscapes can guide policymaking and administration towards more effective cross-boundary management of interdependent ecosystems.