Innovative study on Valuation of Ecosystem Services in South Africa

A new pilot study of ecosystem accounting in South Africa maps, measures and values for the province of KwaZulu-Natal a suite of ecosystem services. South Africa has long been at the forefront of the global NCA movement. The country held its  first-ever national Natural Capital Accounting Forum in July 2019, during which a broad array of national stakeholders discussed the power of NCA to support South Africa’s move towards a green economy as a sustainable development path, in line with the country’s National Development Plan and the global Sustainable Development Goals.

This latest study was commissioned by UNEP as part of the South African component of the international, EU-funded, Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (NCAVES) project (which also involves Brazil, China, India and Mexico), which is jointly implemented with United Nations Statistics Division.  In South Africa, Statistics South Africa and the South African National Biodiversity Institute  (SANBI) co-leading the project nationally and in collaboration with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) and other national and sub-national stakeholders.

The province of KwaZulu-Natal is the second largest contributor to South Africa’s economy, contributing around 15% of GDP. It also has the among the highest diversity of broad habitat types in the country and supports a wealth of biodiversity. The report illuminates connections between economy, environment and society. It finds that the combined value of the annual flow of the ecosystem services that were valued was R33.4 billion in 2011 or 7.4% of the provincial GGP.  Values of many of the services have decreased over time, particularly in the predominant grassland and savanna biomes. The availability of harvested wild resources and the amount of carbon sequestered have been in decline, a reflection of agricultural expansion and land degradation. The value of provisioning ecosystem services on cultivated land have correspondingly increased, illustrating the trade-offs being made.

The results of this pilot study are preliminary and should be interpreted with due caution. The major contribution of the study is to demonstrate that the compilation of monetary accounts for ecosystems on a large scale using various statistical data sources and valuation methods is feasible. In doing so, the study provides major methodological advances that will be reflected in revisions to the internationally-agreed methodology for the SEEA EEA.

Full report is available here: