University of North Carolina Wilmington associate professor Dr. Narcisa Pricope has been appointed to a three-year term with the United Nations to advise the UN Convention to Combat Desertification Science-Policy Interface.
Pricope, who teaches in the university’s Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Center for Marine Science, has researched land change science, water resources and climate change.
During the three-year appointment to the Science-Policy Interface, established at COP11 in 2013 to translate scientific findings and assessments into policy-relevant recommendations, Pricope will help UN policymakers make more informed and effective decisions for balancing the needs of the ecosystem with the needs of society.
She will provide data analysis, projections and policy recommendations related to land degradation, or the reduction or loss of the productive potential of land. Desertification is a form of land degradation by which fertile land becomes desert.
She has spent more than a decade researching drivers, causes and impacts of land degradation on three continents.
“Addressing land degradation is essential to improve the livelihoods of those most affected and to build resilience to safeguard against the most extreme effects of climate change. The impacts on natural habitats–flora and fauna–and the human system can be equally detrimental,” Pricope said in a statement.
According to research co-authored by Pricope for the project Tools4LDN, more than 20% of the Earth’s vegetated surface is estimated to be degraded, affecting more than 1.3 billion people, with an economic impact of up to $10.6 trillion. Land degradation reduces agricultural productivity and increases the vulnerability of those areas already at risk of impacts from climate variability and change, university officials said.
Examples of land degradation can be seen in marshes where native plants are shifting to invasive reeds, in grasslands that are being replaced with unpalatable shrubs and in coastal regions where rising tides are causing erosion.
“We need to carefully balance how to manage, restore or conserve our ecosystems to ensure they continue to function in a manner that supports life and livelihoods equally, which is challenging yet doable, and that is what I’m hoping to contribute through my involvement in the UNCCD SPI,” Pricope said