SEEA EEA Revision: Research Areas
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.
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.
- Discussion paper 1.1: An ecosystem type classification for the SEEA EEA
- Discussion paper 1.2: Treatment of ecosystems assets in urban areas
- Discussion paper 1.3: Treatment of the atmosphere and oceans in the SEEA EEA
- Background paper 1: to discussion paper 1.1 on option 3 (online only)
- Background paper 2: A review of existing classifications (online only)
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.
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.
- Discussion paper 2.1: Purpose and role of ecosystem condition accounts (final version of 5 September 2019)
- Discussion paper 2.2: Review of ecosystem condition accounting case studies: Lessons learned and options for developing condition accounts
- Discussion paper 2.3: Proposed typology of condition variables for ecosystem accounting and criteria for selection of condition variables (final version of 18 October 2019)
- Online supplement to Discussion paper 2.2
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.
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.
- Discussion paper 3.1: Proposed concepts, definitions and terminology for ecosystem services for the revised SEEA EEA
- Discussion paper 3.2: Treatments for selected ecosystem services and related flows for the revised SEEA EEA
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.
- Towards a definition and classification of terrestrial provisioning services related to crop cultivation and forestry (paper #1)
- Biomass from Fisheries: Provisioning Services and Benefits (paper #2)
- Soil retention (regulating) ecosystem services (paper 3)
- Research paper on air filtration ecosystem services (paper #4)
- Accounting for the water purification ecosystem service (paper #5)
- Defining and valuing carbon related services (paper #6)
- Water flow regulation for mitigating river and coastal flooding (paper #7)
- Water Supply Services: Biophysical Modeling and Economic Valuation in Ecosystem Accounting (paper #8)
- Recreation services from ecosystems (paper #10)
- Research paper on habitat and biodiversity related ecosystem services (paper #11)
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.
- Discussion paper 5.1: Defining exchange and welfare values, articulating institutional arrangements and establishing the valuation context for ecosystem accounting
- Discussion paper 5.2: A framework for the valuation of ecosystem asset
- Discussion paper 5.3: Accounting treatments when integrating ecosystem accounts in the SNA
- Discussion paper 5.4: Recording degradation in ecosystem accounts
- Discussion paper 5.5: Ecosystem disservices and externalities
- Background paper: Exchange values and welfare values in the SEEA EEA