SEEA EEA Revision: Research Areas

General

The research agenda for the SEEA EEA revision was structured around 4 research areas - spatial units, ecosystem condition, ecosystem services, and valuation, as outlined in the Revision Issues Note. Subsequently, the work was organized in five working groups covering the research areas and involving a wide range of experts from various communities, among others, official statistics, ecology, environmental sciences and economics. The below outlines the five working groups and provides links to the discussion papers that the groups drafted. 

 

Working group 1 on spatial units

Spatial units are at the heart of ecosystem accounting. The key focus in this research area is to establish statistically and accounting relevant classifications for land use, land cover and ecosystem types and application, where possible, of existing classifications of this type. This working group will also establish clear principles for defining ecosystem type classes. In addition, the working group will explore accounting for urban areas, the use of national boundaries for statistical purposes, the role of atmospheric units in delineation of the environment and accounting for marine and coastal areas.

Working group lead: Sjoerd Schenau, Statistics Netherlands

The Expert Consultation of the discussion papers on spatial units drafted by Working Group 1 was concluded on 31 May 2019. Draft discussion papers from the expert consultation are available below. 

In 2020, the group is focusing on testing of the proposed reference ecosystem classifications to support the finalization of the standard and implementation of the revised SEEA EEA.  

 

Working group 2 on ecosystem condition

The measurement of ecosystem asset condition is a fundamental aspect of ecosystem accounting since it is the regular monitoring of asset condition that is central to assessing the changing capacity of ecosystems to supply ecosystem services. The working group will provide a broad structure for the core types of ecological and non-ecological characteristics and associated indicators which should be the focus of measurement in different ecosystem types. The use of reference conditions and the measurement of ecosystem capacity will also be explored.

Working group lead: Joachim Maes, European Commission - Joint Research Centre

The Expert Consultation of the discussion papers on ecosystem condition drafted by Working Group 2 was concluded. Draft discussion papers from the expert consultation were discussed at the 2019 Forum of Experts and some further revised. Latest versions are available below. 

In 2020, the group is focussing efforts on testing of the developed ecosystem condition framework with several countries that have already compiled their ecosystem condition accounts. Results of the testing will show the usefulness of the framework and flag the need for its further refinement. 

 

Working group 3 on ecosystem services

Measuring ecosystem service flows in physical terms is important to enable a broad mapping of the role of ecosystem assets and the relevant beneficiaries; and to facilitate the valuation of ecosystem services. The working group will focus on a wide range of measurement boundary challenges, including the boundary between final and intermediate ecosystem services and benefits, the distinction between SNA and non-SNA benefits and more. There is a focus on ensuring that the most commonly measured ecosystem services are described in a consistent way with agreed terms for each service.

Working group lead: Lars Hein, Wageningen University, the Netherlands

The expert consultation of the discussion papers on ecosystem services has been concluded. The drafts of the discussion papers from the expert consultation are available below. 

 

Working group 4 on individual key ecosystem services

In the area of measurement and valuation of ecosystem services, it has been agreed to focus on a number of selected key ecosystem services and use a bottom-up approach to work towards agreed definitions and treatment of ecosystem services in an ecosystem accounting context. Ten key ecosystem services were identified, for which discussion papers outlined their definition(s), biophysical measurement methods and valuation. Nature of these research papers was to outline the state of play in measurement and valuation with respect to accounting. Small drafting teams worked on the papers, involving over 45 experts from various governments, academia and the private sector.  

Working group lead: Rocky Harris, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), UK

The ten discussion papers were presented and discussed at the Expert Meeting on Advancing the Measurement of Ecosystem Services for Ecosystem Accounting, which took place during 22-24 January 2019 in New York and have been subsequently updated with the comments received. The latest versions of these papers are available below. 

 

Working group 5 on valuation and accounting treatments

Much of the work in this group will focus on placing in context a wide range of economic and accounting thinking that has developed over time and establishing proposals for appropriate treatments for ecosystem accounting purposes. Key issues that emerge include:

  • Establishing the concept of exchange values in non-market situations for the valuation of ecosystem services;
  • Understanding environmental economic concepts of externalities, disservices and welfare values in an accounting context; 
  • Conceptualizing ecosystem capacity for accounting purposes; 
  • Measuring ecosystem degradation and enhancement and establishing appropriate recording options for the accounts, including attribution to economic units; and 
  • Valuing ecosystem assets, including link to the valuation of land and estimating the future flow of ecosystem services.

Working group lead: Juha Siikamaki, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

The expert consultation on the discussion papers drafted by Working Group 5 has been completed. The drafts of the discussion papers from the expert consultation are available below. 

 

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