Monetary valuation for ecosystem services and assets for ecosystem accounting

Monetary valuation for ecosystem accounting

The SEEA Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) implementation strategy was adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission at its 53rd session in 2022. As part of the implementation strategy, several guidelines and technical reports are being developed to support the compilation of ecosystem accounts: Guidelines on Biophysical Modelling; a technical report on Monetary Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Assets for Ecosystem Accounting - Interim version, first edition; as well as tools to support compilation such as ARIES for SEEA

Why a technical report on monetary valuation for ecosystem accounting?

The report is intended to provide a useful starting point with suggestions on valuation methods and references for countries that are undertaking monetary valuation as part of the SEEA EA national implementation. The report includes practical examples to illustrate how the different valuation methods for ecosystem services and ecosystem assets have been applied, including results from pilot studies that have been carried out as part of the NCAVES and the MAIA projects.

The report should not be considered as agreed guidelines on how to compile monetary accounts. Some issues related to valuation are being discussed as part of the SEEA EA research agenda and the SNA revision process. The document will remain under review and updated as country experiences are gained valuing ecosystem services based on SEEA EA and consensus emerges. This interim status is reflected in the title of the report.

The intended audience of this document are statisticians and compilers of ecosystem accounts, as well as modellers of ecosystem services who are interested in understanding the concepts and methods of monetary valuation of ecosystem services and assets, how the valuations can be carried out, and how they can be of use in the context of the SEEA EA.

Approach and scope

This interim technical report is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 2– Foundations, lays out the conceptual basis for the valuation of ecosystem services (ES), placing in context the valuation concepts of exchange values and others, including welfare values, consumer surplus, willingness to pay and willingness to accept.  This chapter complements Chapters 8 and 12 of the SEEA EA.
  • Chapter 3 – Valuation methods, provides a review of the most commonly valuation methods and the extent to which they are able to approximate exchange values. The methods are differentiated by those that collect and apply primary data from those that use secondary data, or value transfer methods. 
  • Chapter 4 – Valuing ecosystem services, describes the application of the methods presented in Chapter 3 of this report to the valuation of selected ecosystem services.  These methods are discussed in terms of the demand for data and the statistical analysis needed for their application and are ranked according to their proximity to observed market prices and their expected accuracy and spatial resolution.  This chapter complements Chapter 9.4.2, “Valuation of different types of services” of the SEEA EA
  • Chapter 5 – Asset valuation, describes the ecosystem assets covered in the SNA capital accounts and balance sheets, and provides orientation for the valuation of those ecosystem assets not included in the SNA.  Issues related to the application of the valuation method of assets using the Net Present Value are discussed. This chapter complements Chapter 10, “Accounting for ecosystem assets in monetary terms”, of the SEEA EA
  • Chapter 6 – Other considerations in compiling monetary ecosystem accounts, discusses practical aspects in the compilation of monetary ecosystem accounts such as value transfer for ecosystem accounting; data sources and tools to support valuation; fitness for purpose; and aggregation. This chapter also provides recommendations for communicating results from monetary ecosystem accounts.