Biodiversity, marine and terrestrial ecosystems of local, regional, and global significance are inventoried, managed, and monitored to ensure the continuation of resilient and adaptive life support systems and to support sustainable development. Water, oceans, forests, and other natural resources are managed sustainably and transparently to support inclusive economic and human development.

Targets and Indicators

9a. Ensure resilient and productive ecosystems by adopting policies and legislation that address drivers of ecosystem degradation, and requiring individuals, businesses and governments to pay the social cost of pollution and use of environmental services.*

80. Ocean Health Index (national index)

81. Red List Index (by country and major species group)

82. Protected areas overlay with biodiversity (national level)

9b. Participate in and support regional and global arrangements to inventory, monitor, and protect biomes and environmental commons of regional and global significance and curb trans-boundary environmental harms, with robust systems in place no later than 2020.

80. Ocean Health Index (regional index)

83. Percentage of fish stocks within safe biological limits (MDG Indicator)

81. Red List Index (for Internationally Traded Species)

82. Protected areas overlay with biodiversity (regional and global)

84. [Reporting of international river shed authorities on trans-boundary river-shed management] – Indicator to be developed

9c. All governments and businesses commit to the sustainable, integrated, and transparent management of water, agricultural land, forests, fisheries, mining, and hydrocarbon resources to support inclusive economic development and the achievement of all SDGs.*

85. Percentage of total water resources used (MDG Indicator)

86. Area of forest under sustainable forest management as a percentage of forest area

87. Publication of resource-based contracts

88. Publication of all payments made to governments under resource contracts


Ecosystems, such as rainforests, mangroves, coral reefs, wetlands, drylands, and grasslands underpin human life on Earth, through provisioning services (e.g. food, clean water, energy, medicines), regulating services (e.g. climate, air quality, pollination, coastal storm protection), support services (e.g. soil formation), and cultural services (e.g. educational, religious, tourism)[1]. Yet many are heavily degraded and the world is facing an unprecedented mass extinction of species and biodiversity loss.

As one important example, an estimated 60 percent of marine ecosystems are used unsustainably or degraded as a result of overfishing, pollution, eutrophication, warming, sea level rise, and acidification driven by human-induced increases in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. To sustainably manage oceans and coastal regions, it will be crucial to strengthen and harmonize national and regional maritime policies, strengthen cooperation in ocean observation and marine spatial planning, and improve our scientific understanding of how these systems react to different impacts and policies. Countries have long promised integrated networks of marine protected areas, which now need to be implemented.

Management of biodiversity and ecosystems must be transformed to ensure robust and healthy ecosystems everywhere. Successful strategies for biodiversity management and ecosystem preservation are complex to design and require coordinated policies over a long time frame. They will need to be based on sound science, but also draw on the tools of social mobilization and behavior change that civil society and modern social media can facilitate. A common element in most management strategies must be to ensure that governments, businesses, and individuals recognize the full ecological value and pay the full social cost of the use of ecosystem services and their pollution.[2] Likewise, national accounts and business reporting should value biodiversity and ecosystems to support true value management of natural assets.

A related management challenge concerns ecosystems that are of regional or global significance as well as trans-boundary issues, for example: polar regions, tropical rainforests, ocean and coastal systems, permafrost regions, temperate forests, and savannahs. These regulating systems are of concern for humanity as a whole, irrespective of where one lives. They therefore require targeted and coordinated international management strategies to which all concerned countries and businesses must contribute.

A central element of national, regional, and global management strategies for ecosystems and biodiversity is the need for better data. The world is flying blind with regard to the true state of many ecosystems, so management strategies must be underpinned by targeted efforts to inventory and monitor biodiversity, principal ecosystem functions, and services at biome and national scales.

We support the Aichi Biodiversity Targets that were developed under the Convention for Biological Diversity.[3] The five strategic goals and twenty targets map out operational milestones to be achieved by 2020 covering key drivers of biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation, and proximate drivers. Since the SDGs need to cover the full spectrum of sustainable development in a succinct number of goals – we would argue no more than ten goals and thirty targets – key elements of the Aichi targets need to be covered in the SDGs and be extended to 2030.

The diversity and specificity of ecosystems around the world makes it difficult to select two or three quantified SDG outcome targets that are applicable in every country, since every choice of one type of ecosystem or dimension of biodiversity would leave out many others that are equally important. For this reason, we propose that countries achieve locally-defined outcome targets for inventorying, managing, and preserving key ecosystems by adopting policies and legislation that address drivers of degradation and biodiversity loss, and requiring individuals, businesses, and governments to pay the social cost of pollution and use of environmental services. Such national outcome targets could, for example, include halting the conversion of natural terrestrial ecosystems, particularly forests, wetlands, and savannahs, for other land uses (see also Goal 6).

Managing trans-boundary and international ecosystems requires cooperation across countries with management strategies, monitoring arrangements, and financing strategies that may be very different from national-level strategies for ecosystem management. We therefore propose a second target focusing on the need for regional and global arrangements to inventory, monitor, and protect biomes and environmental commons of regional and global significance and to curb trans-boundary environmental harms. We call on robust trans-boundary management and coordination mechanisms to be in place by 2020.

The proposed SDG Targets 9a and 9b in conjunction with the other SDGs cover much of the Aichi Biodiversity targets. We underscore that these targets, and the SDGs as a whole, are not designed to replace the Aichi targets or their successors. Instead, the SDGs will complement the much more detailed Aichi targets, just like almost every other area of sustainable development has its own suite of detailed targets.

Many countries face growing water stress and virtually all must improve the integrated and sustainable management of their water resources. This will require long-term strategies involving governments, communities, and businesses to balance sustainable supply and use, reduce water loss, improve water retention, and lower pollution. Impounding or redirecting freshwater flows to the detriment of key ecosystems needs to be avoided. In many countries, subsidies for the extraction of ground and surface water will need to be reconsidered, and adequate pricing systems for water might need to be put in place. Water use cuts across all goals, particularly  6 (agriculture), 7 (cities and industry), and 9 (ecosystems). We therefore propose to integrate water use into each of the corresponding goals and highlight the need for integrated management of freshwater resources .

A consequence of the growing demand for primary commodities and stresses on the world’s food supplies is the recent sharp rise in the market values of land, minerals, hydrocarbons, freshwater, and other primary resources. In turn, the rising market values of primary resources are leading to a new scramble by many nations to secure their own access to primary commodities. As a result, the scale of global investments in exploration and development of hydrocarbon reserves, mineral deposits, and farmland is rising sharply, including in some of the world’s poorest countries. These increased economic activities can be a catalyst for growth and economic development in poor regions. Yet history also teaches that increased investments in primary commodities can also produce a “resource curse,” marked by rising corruption, massive environmental degradation, land grabs, the dispossession of traditional landowners, and a siphoning off of resource revenues by a small elite.

We therefore underscore the importance of sustainable practices in the extractive industries, including mining, hydrocarbons, and large-scale land development. Governments and the associated extractive or farming/forestry industries involved need to commit to the effective and transparent management of minerals, hydrocarbon resources, and agricultural land or forest holdings in order to support inclusive economic development and the achievement of all SDGs. This may include consultations with affected communities, strengthening governments’ regulatory and negotiation capacities to obtain fairer deals, seizing opportunities for resource-based industrialization, long-term strategies for investing natural resource rents to support inclusive development, maximizing opportunities for skill transfer, independent certification of land-use practices and chain of custody, and establishing transparent platforms for public participation, accountability, and decision making.

[1] See the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment for more details.

[2] One option might be to use the global footprint metric to quantify different types of resource use and pollution using a single common metric.

[3] For a list of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets see:

Key SDSN reports
  • Collier, P and Antonio, P. et al(2013). Harnessing Natural Resources for Sustainable Development: Challenges and Solutions. Paris, France and New York, USA: SDSN.
  • Naeem, S., Viana, V., Visbeck, M., (2014) Forests, Oceans, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Draft report of the Thematic Group FOBES, SDSN. To be published by Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Additional Resources



What is transformative about goal 9 “Secure Biodiversity and Ensure Good Management of Water, Oceans, Forests and Natural Resources”?
By focusing on the preservation of biodiversity and the sound management of water, oceans, forests, and natural resources, this goal expands upon MDG 7, focusing on specific challenges that must be addressed if the world is to move to a sustainable development pathway. The MDG 7 targets, focusing on water and sanitation and improving the lives of slum dwellers, are included under goals 6 and 7 above.

The first two targets under this proposed goal focus on the sound management of ecosystems and biomes at national and regional level. We believe this distinction is useful and important since the institutional arrangements differ sharply between national and regional levels, with the latter requiring dedicated cooperative structures and mechanisms. As a critical requirement to success, the goal identifies the need to make individuals, businesses, and governments pay the full cost of environmental resource use. Of course the proposed goal does not prescribe any policies. This is the purview of UN member states.

The third target under the goal highlights the critical importance of the sound management of natural resources, including but not limited to water resources, minerals, metals, hydrocarbons, forests, and agricultural land. The indicators proposed for this target promote transparency and accountability in the use of natural resources.

The proposed goal is fully consistent with and supports the more detailed Aichi targets adopted under the Convention for Biological Diversity. It maps out a truly universal agenda that is applicable to all countries.

Why are the targets under Goal 9 not quantified?
The world has adopted the Aichi Biodiversity targets as quantitative outcome targets for biodiversity and ecosystems. These 20 targets include outcome objectives to be achieved by 2020. The SDG targets cannot replicate the full set of Aichi targets, and it strikes us as impossible to pick one ecosystem or one quantitative target over the others. Countries therefore need to set their own quantitative targets under the SDGs, which should ideally be consistent with the Aichi targets. We propose to distinguish between ecosystem management at the national and subnational level (first target) and regional or global efforts (second target). The latter are inherently more complex and require different institutional arrangements. Both are critical for sustainable development. The proposed SDG targets call for policies to ensure resilient and productive ecosystems. A central objective of such policies must be to address the drivers of ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss, which includes applying the “polluter pays” and “payment for ecosystem services” principles. Suitable indicators, including halting the loss of biodiversity, can and should be constructed at national/local and regional/global levels to measure the achievement of this target across a broad range of ecosystems.

Why do some goals focus on outcomes whereas others focus on outputs or means?
Where possible, the SDGs should focus on outcomes, such as ending extreme poverty. Yet, the distinction between outcomes, outputs, and inputs needs to be handled pragmatically, and the design of goals and targets should be – we believe – guided by approaches that are best suited to mobilize action and ensure accountability. For example, ensuring universal access to healthcare or high-quality early childhood development (ECD) are important commitments for every government. Goals and targets that focus on these outputs will ensure operational focus and accountability. In some instances it also makes sense to target inputs. For example, official development assistance (ODA) is critical for ensuring many SDGs and needs to be mobilized in every high-income country. Mobilizing resources for sustainable development is difficult, so subsuming ODA as an implicit input into every SDG would make it harder for government leaders, citizens, and civil society organizations to argue for increased ODA. It would also weaken accountability for rich countries. Similar considerations apply, for example, to the proposed target on integrated reporting by governments and businesses on their contributions to the SDGs.

What does reducing to “zero” or “universal access” mean?
Many targets call for “universal access” (e.g. to infrastructure) or “zero” deprivation (e.g. extreme poverty, hunger). For each such target, the technical communities and member states will need to define the precise quantitative standard for their commitment to “universal access” or “zero” deprivation. We hope that in most cases these standards will indeed be 100 percent or 0 percent, respectively, but there may be areas where it is technically impossible to achieve 100 percent access or 0 percent deprivation. In such cases countries should aim to get as close as possible to 100 percent or 0 percent, respectively.

Why are some targets not quantified and marked with an asterisk? Why do some targets have numbers in square brackets?
It is important that every target can be measured at the national or local level, but not every target can be defined globally in a meaningful way, for three distinct reasons:

i. The starting points may differ too much across countries for a single meaningful quantitative standard at the global level;
ii. Some targets need to be adapted and quantified locally or may be relevant only in subsets of countries (e.g. those that refer to specific ecosystems);
iii. For some targets no global consensus exists today, and these still need to be negotiated, as is the case with greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. In the meantime, countries should establish their own plans and targets.

In some cases proposed numerical targets are presented in square brackets since these numbers are preliminary and may need to be reviewed by the corresponding technical communities.