Ecosystem Accounts

What is it? 

The SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting constitutes an integrated statistical framework for organizing biophysical data, measuring ecosystem services, tracking changes in ecosystem assets and linking this information to economic and other human activity. 

SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting and the Central Framework

The SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting complements the SEEA Central Framework by taking a different perspective. The Central Framework looks at “individual environmental assets”, such as water resources, energy resources, etc. and how those assets move between the environment and the economy. In contrast, the SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting takes the perspective of ecosystems and considers how individual environmental assets interact as part of natural processes within a given spatial area. 

How it works 

Ecosystem accounting takes a spatial approach and ecosystem assets are delineated as spatial areas containing a combination of biotic and abiotic components and other characteristics that function together. These ecosystem assets provide ecosystem services, which are the contributions and benefits of ecosystems to economic and other human activity. The SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting has a system of accounts that present a coherent and comprehensive view of ecosystems:

  1. Ecosystem extent account: This account serves as a common starting point for ecosystem accounting. It organizes information on the extent of different ecosystem types within a country in terms of area.
  2. Ecosystem condition account: This account measures the overall quality of an ecosystem asset and captures, in a set of key indicators, the state or functioning of the ecosystem in relation to both its naturalness and its potential to supply ecosystem services.
  3. Ecosystem services accounts:  This set of ecosystem accounts measures the supply of ecosystem services as well as their corresponding beneficiaries, classified by broad national accounting categories or other groupings of economic units. 
  4. Monetary asset account: This account records the monetary value of opening and closing stocks of all ecosystem assets within an ecosystem accounting area and additions and reduction to those stock.  
  5. Thematic accounts: This set of accounts, which cover accounts for land, water, carbon and biodiversity, are standalone accounts on topics of their own right and are also of direct relevance in the measurement of ecosystems and in assessing policy response. 

Links to Accounting of Other Thematic Areas

The SEEA Land and SEEA-Water accounts are standalone accounts of the SEEA that have direct relevance in the measurement of ecosystems and provide a basic entry point for ecosystem accounting. Click here for more information on the relationship between ecosystem accounting and accounting in other thematic areas.