Dr. Narcisa Pricope Appointed to United Nations Convention

Thursday, December 08, 2022

From the wetlands of North Carolina to the grasslands of Southern Africa, Dr. Narcisa Pricope’s advanced global research in land change science, water resources and climate change has led to a three-year appointment with the United Nations to advise the UN Convention to Combat Desertification Science-Policy Interface. 

During the three-year term, Dr. Pricope, a UNCW professor in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Center for Marine Science, 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 analysis of scientific data, future projections and policy recommendations related to land degradation – the reduction or loss of the productive potential of land. Desertification is a form of land degradation by which fertile land becomes desert. 

“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,” said Dr. Pricope, who has spent more than a decade researching drivers, causes and impacts of land degradation on three continents.  

According to research co-authored by Dr. 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. 

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. Worldwide, extreme weather events like drought, flooding and wildfires accelerate land degradation and can have far-reaching impacts on human health, livelihood, living conditions and food security. 

“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,” Dr. Pricope said. 

-- Krissy Vick 

Dr. Narcisa Pricope