Beyond the economic boundaries to account for ecosystem services
Ecosystem services (ES) accounts are essential to quantify and monitor the contribution of ecosystems to human well-being. The System of Environmental and Economic Accounting – Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EEA) is the first attempt to provide a set of standards to compile ecosystem accounts. We argue for the inclusion of an ecological perspective in the SEEA EEA that considers ecosystems to be more than input providers to the economy. Ecosystems can act as accounting units capable of producing, consuming and recording changes in regeneration and absorption rates. To account for that we propose (i) to identify ES typologies according to the way in which energy, biomass and information is released to generate services; (ii) to use these typologies to define the concepts of ES potential, ES potential flows, ES demand and ES actual flows; and (iii) to build the ES capacity accounts in monetary terms based on these concepts. These arguments are illustrated with case studies for water purification and crop pollination accounts in European countries. Extending the production boundary would allow the measurement of the sustainable use of ES and the establishment of causality between the use of ES and the value accrued by the economic actors and households.