Why value land?

"Nature is our home. Good economics demands we manage it better.”
Sir Partha Dasgupta – Dasgupta Review 2021

Land matters

Land resources – soil, water, and biodiversity – provide the foundation for the wealth of our societies and economies” (UNCCD Global Land Outlook 2022).

But this ecological foundation for the wealth of our societies and economies is dramatically at risk.

Up to 40 % of the world’s land area is already degraded, affecting 3.2 billion people (UNCCD 2022). 75 % of the Earth’s land surface has already been significantly altered by humans (IPBES Assessment on Land Degradation and Restoration 2018). Land degradation is strongly interconnected with climate change and biodiversity loss.


The values of land

Land’s economic value is commonly determined by immediate agricultural or forestry market values. This narrow market perspective chronically undervalues land and often incentivizes the maximization of short-term gains. As a result, resources are overused, land degrades and intact ecosystems are lost.

One of the key drivers? Our failure to account for the true values of land. 

Land ecosystems provide a whole range of other, less visible services that are important for societies and economies as well such as water filtration, pollination, erosion control or carbon storage. Measuring and accounting for these "hidden" services is imperative.

The numbers show: The global value of the world’s ecosystem services is up to $145 trillion per year - 1.5 times the global GDP. Losing land on the other hand leads to services being lost worth $10.6 trillion every year (ELD Report The Value of Land 2015).

The values of land is defined as the multitude of the values of the ecosystem services that land-based natural capital – soil, water, and biodiversity – provides.

The ELD Initiative coined the term “the value of land” in 2015 (ELD The Value of Land Report). It is well established today that multiple perspectives and dimensions of “value” need to be recognized. These can be expressed, among others, in biophysical, socio-cultural, socio-economic, or monetary terms (IPBES Values Assessment 2022).

The good news: Restoration and conservation pays off. 

Taking the full suit of ecosystem service values into account often makes a compelling economic case for sustainable land management, conservation and restoration of land resources. Evidence shows that every dollar invested in restoring degraded land results in a return of 7– 30 $ in economic benefits (UNCCD 2022).


Making the values of land count in decisions

After more than a decade of working for the values of land and ecosystems, there is now the need and the window of opportunity now to go beyond awareness raising and support decision-makers in taking necessary action. 

To drive change, it is not sufficient to solely uncover the values of land and the ecosystem services it provides. We need to make it count in decisions and create an enabling environment with policy reforms, economic instruments, institutional design, and as well as mobilize necessary investments. 

This is where ELD comes in: We work to make the values of land count in decisions. We do this with the aim to inform, promote, and scale land solutions for transformative change.


Transformative change refers to the deep rooted and encompassing change of societies and economies that is needed to ensure development and prosperity within planetary boundaries. No single intervention will bring about transformative change, but a set of leverage points can help create necessary conditions (IPBES 2022).

The ELD Initiative identifies three categories of land solutions that serve as leverage points in the land-water-climate-biodiversity nexus:

  1. Sustainable land management and restoration practices,
  2. Policy instruments and institutional design, and
  3. Financing solutions and strategies.


Assessing the values of land with demand-driven, participatory, integrated and forward-looking assessments is a means to informing the use of these solutions in policy and decision-making and to ultimately drive the transformative change that is needed to preserve our land and its ecosystems.


Economic assessments can be used in several ways to inform and influence decisions:

  • Making an economic case for investing in land and ecosystems (or supporting the stakeholders that maintain them, e.g. a local population in an agreement regarding the payment of ecosystem services);
  • Extended cost-benefit calculations to evaluate options, interventions, policies, etc.
  • Modify economic/growth indicators to adequately account for ecosystem services
  • Identifying opportunities to tap into new markets, income and revenues, e.g. certification schemes and premium prices for products supporting e.g biodiversity conservation
  • Calculation of prices, charges and fees for environmental goods and services
  • Costing and charging environmental damage, penalties, and fines
  • Assessing harmful subsidies and their reform
  • Supporting decisions for investments into sustainable use and restoration of land and ecosystems
  • Ex-post evaluations of interventions, projects, policies, etc. 

Economic assessments can play different roles in the policy cycle:



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