Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services - South Africa
Mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystems into policy through natural capital accounts
NCAVES Implementation in South Africa
The Natural Capital and Valuation of Ecosystem Services project engaged South Africa in 2016. Internally, the project was co-led by Stats SA and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). NCAVES was funded by the European Union.
NCAVES aimed to:
- compile national land, ecosystem, and species accounts in biophysical terms;
- pilot the development of ecosystem services accounts (in biophysical and monetary terms);
- scenario analysis at a provincial level, in KwaZulu-Natal;
- contribute to the testing and development of the System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) Ecosystem Accounting guidelines and methodologies;
- develop and test indicators for country reporting on the UN Sustainable Development Goals; and build awareness, knowledge sharing, and capacity building to support a community of practitioners
What's been accomplished
The activities and related outputs of the project in South Africa include:
Compilation of ecosystem accounts.
Land and Terrestrial Ecosystem Accounts
South Africa’s landscape and habitats are constantly changing. Understanding these changes, over space, across time, and in combination with changes in the country’s terrestrial ecosystems, has provided insight that can inform planning and decision-making. NCAVES supported South Africa’s first Land and Terrestrial Ecosystem Accounts, 1990 to 2014. This account provides insight into these changes. The Land and Terrestrial Ecosystem Accounts are presented as accounting tables accompanied by maps (Figure 1) and graphs, which draw out key indicators from the accounts. The first part of the account outlines changes in land cover patterns. The second part provides information about the condition of South Africa’s terrestrial ecosystems and how this has changed from their historical state (before people began modifying the landscape intensively).
Figure 1: Extent of biomes in 2014, including intensively modified biomes that have replaced portions of the natural and semi-natural biomes.
Looking ahead: Taking NCA forward in South Africa
Looking ahead: Taking NCA forward in South Africa
Given South Africa’s strong foundations in ecosystem and biodiversity data, the country is well positioned to compile further categories of natural capital accounts and explore an integrated suite of accounts for specific policy-and decision-making purposes.
South Africa will use its leadership in being a:
- signatory to the Gaborone Declaration on Sustainability in Africa,
- current Chair of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), and
- Steering Committee member of the Africa NCA Community of Practice
to drive the development and mainstreaming of NCA across Africa.
The NCA Strategy will support national coordination across government. Stats SA and SANBI will continue to coordinate and collaborate on NCA work and add value to resources already invested. The process will remain inclusive and aim to work with as wide-a-range of stakeholders as possible.
Through layering of donor investments, Stats SA and SANBI will continue to leverage internal and external resources to great effect, creating synergies and increasing returns on individual investments.
South Africa is seeking new resourcing partners to further develop time series data for important accounts and to develop an expanded suite of priority accounts identified in the National NCA Strategy, including accounts for: river and wetland ecosystems, carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture and food security, water, ecological infrastructure assets, priority ecosystem services and priority species of special concern.
South Africa will explore how NCA can help businesses better account for dependencies and impacts on nature. Further formal and informal learning opportunities also need support to supply a pipeline of expertise, as well as support for research and innovation to drive advancements in the technologies that support NCA
South Africa has many years of experience with natural capital accounting (NCA). Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) first developed environmental economic accounts for water in 2000 and subsequently have compiled additional accounts for energy, minerals, and fisheries.
Between 2014 and 2016, through the Advancing Natural Capital Accounting (ANCA), from 2014 to 2016, the country has also piloted accounts for river ecosystems using the SEEA framework.
A key finding from these river accounts was that the ecological condition of South Africa’s rivers was declining. This information then helped inform the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, which highlights the importance of maintaining the integrity of freshwater ecosystems as part of the water value chain.
The river accounts also identified areas where the decline in river health has been most pronounced so that solutions can be identified and targeted to better manage catchments and rivers to support economic and social development.