Protecting, restoring, & promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managing forests, combating desertification, & halting & reversing land degradation & halting biodiversity loss is the purpose of Sustainable Development Goal 15 (SDG 15). This goal strives to preserve biodiversity & increase eco-centric behaviors.

Actions, stories, & resources related to SDG 15: Life on Land as told in the 2021 Auburn University and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals report, & then expanded on below, illustrate Auburn’s impact. For an overview highlighting our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), please visit


To protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, sustainably managing forests, desertification, land degradation, and biodiversity loss is crucial. Biodiversity is essential for climate change adaptation and natural disaster risk reduction, but biodiversity is decreasing more rapidly than any other time in human history.

Auburn University is highly engaged with Goal 15 across a variety of categories; most notably through teaching activities, with at least 80 courses offered from 2016-2018. Auburn University is a land-grant institution with strong teaching, research, outreach, and student involvement with forestry, agriculture, horticulture, and more. Auburn University is a direct stakeholder in local, statewide, national, and global land health because of the investments the university has made in forests, farming, soil health, and ecosystems at these levels, making Goal 15 a direct concern of this institution.

View the 2021 report titled Auburn University and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for an overview of Auburn’s contributions to all the SDGs.

Actions at Auburn

The Wildlife Ecology and Management degree program in the College of Forestry Wildlife and Environment provides a broad biological education that is specifically designed to meet the needs of students interested in careers involving wildlife ecology, management, and conservation. Students are exposed to field experiences through outdoor labs and work opportunities and are trained to address issues involving free-ranging wildlife populations. People with wildlife science backgrounds are needed to work in overseeing our natural resources, managing habitats for rare or endangered species, supervising game species for sustainable harvest, and ensuring everyone observes sustainable practices that keep our natural resources available for all to enjoy.

student with bear sdg Photo courtesy of School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Arboretum staff teaching children sdg Photo courtesy of Davis Arboretum

The Donald E. Davis Arboretum is a 13.5-acre botanic garden facility supported by the College of Sciences and Mathematics. It provides visitors with a place to enjoy a natural setting and experience the native plants and habitats of Alabama. The Arboretum functions as a plant museum and has at its core a living collection of scientifically ordered plants with provenance documentation. It functions as an outdoor classroom for university classes, local schools, and community groups. The primary purposes of the Arboretum are conservation, education, and research. The Arboretum also uniquely works to protect the campus’ natural resource areas, which fulfills AU’s sustainability objectives.

The “Old Rotation,” managed by the College of Agriculture, is the oldest continuous cotton experiment in the world. The “Old Rotation” was one of the first experiments to demonstrate and document the value of rotating cotton with other crops and including nitrogen-restoring legumes in the system. Information from this test provided evidence that rotation with legumes could sustain and actually improve yields of cotton and corn in Alabama soils. This experiment has supported research on productivity, soil and environmental quality, and sustainable agriculture. This experiment demonstrates that sustainability has been a fundamental element of Auburn University’s teaching, research, and outreach from the beginning.

sign from the old rotation sdg Photo courtesy of Joshua Fisher

People & Stories

Campus Changemaker: Sarah Lessard

| SDG15, Sustainability in Action | No Comments
By Grace Reilein. When exploring the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, it is important to note that many distinct factors allow for a goal to be reached. There cannot solely be work in the oceans, or in agriculture, but there must be collaboration between policymakers, companies, organizations, and the citizens…

Sustainable for Who? Decisions, Development, & Destruction

| Guest Posts, SDG10, SDG15, SDG17 | No Comments
By Ryan Thomson. What some people view to be progress, others call ruin. And visa-versa. The line between development and destruction has largely become a matter of perspective. You do need not to be a fervent conservationist or “tree hugger” to prefer an untamed river to a glass condominium. Conversely,…

A Land Ethic, an Ecological Conscience, & Biophilia

| Director's Corner, SDG15 | No Comments
“In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.”  Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac Aldo Leopold, a forester and ecologist, published a collection of essays in A Sand County Almanac in 1949.  It is recognized…

Salt Marshes are Beautiful, Stinky, and Uncomfortable Places to Work

| Guest Posts, SDG14, SDG15 | No Comments
By Sam Bickley. The marshes that hug the banks of Alabama’s bays and bayous are smaller than some of their Louisiana or Georgia cousins but are no less beautiful. When the sun is setting over the black needlerush, the dominant marsh plant in our neck of the woods, and you…

Alumni Feature: Travys Harper

| SDG11, SDG13, SDG15, Sustainability Auburn Alumni Affiliate | No Comments
By Travys Harper. I was first exposed to sustainability at Auburn through an Introduction to Sustainability course. At the time, I began to notice that I was already doing some of these things in my life naturally, for example using less water for dishes and brushing my teeth. I was…

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