The role of enabling actors in ecosystem service accounting
When accounting for ecosystem services, it is important to distinguish between the flow of services and the flow of benefits (which can be part of economic accounts or not) generated by those services. To disentangle services and benefits, particular attention has to be paid in allocating each category of flows in the use table to those institutional sectors that generate the need for the services and have the power to modify them - the enabling actors - and to final beneficiaries. The general concept of use, without specifying whether services or benefits are referred to, could in fact lead to misinterpretations. This paper discusses the issue of the allocation of ecosystem services and the role of enabling actors through a practical example of water purification accounts in the Netherlands. In particular, the role of the agricultural sector as an enabling actor is disentangled from the cleaned water as benefit and from water supply companies as beneficiaries. The proper allocation of the flow of the service can in fact facilitate the establishment of a causal relationship between the actions of economic actors and ecological consequences and vice versa.