The world is facing numerous and severe environmental, social, and economic challenges. To address these, in September 2015 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the resolution Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The United Nations' 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and their 169 targets are ambitious, broadly encompassing, and indivisible. They are intended to guide nations and communities toward attaining healthy and peaceful livelihoods free of poverty and hunger. Collectively the goals envision sound and safe environments, where global threats like climate change are successfully combated through both mitigation and adaptation. Agenda 2030 envisages sustainable production patterns with inclusive, effective economies and institutions. It is of specific relevance to mountain communities, where the population is predominantly rural and half of the rural inhabitants experience food insecurity and are often highly dependent on forest resources. Mountain forests also contribute to human welfare well beyond the local community: Through functions such as climate and hydrological services provided at regional and global scales, and harvested commodities traded at multiple economic scales. In this introductory essay we argue that sustainable forest management in mountain areas disproportionately contributes to achieving the SDGs. We discuss (1) the potential of mountain forests to help achieve SDGs in mountainous regions and beyond, (2) the potential of the SDGs to help solve severe socioeconomic and ecological problems in forested mountain areas, and (3) challenges and opportunities associated with implementing the SDGs. We base our argumentation also on the 8 papers presented in this Focus Issue of Mountain Research and Development. Together, they establish a clear connection between sustainable use and protection of mountain forests and vital ecosystem services upon which many regions depend. We discuss challenges of understanding interactions between goals and targets, and highlight the role of science in achieving the SDGs. Finally, we stress the urgent need for establishing a new narrative of socioeconomic transformation to ensure that Agenda 2030 is successful.
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© 2017 Gratzer and Keeton.
Gratzer G, Keeton WS. Mountain forests and sustainable development: The potential for achieving the United Nations' 2030 Agenda. Mountain research and development. 2017 Aug;37(3):246-53.