E-learning tool Ecosystem Accounting

Ecosystem accounting intends to provide comprehensive and up-to-date information on the state and use of ecosystems in order to support decision making in land use planning and economic, resource management and environmental policies that involve the use of, or have repercussions for ecosystems.
Ecosystem accounting has been developed by the world’s statistical community, coordinated by the UN Statistics Division, in collaboration with a large number of natural scientists, economists and environmental experts.

This collaboration has led to the development of the System of Environmental Economic Accounting – Ecosystem Accounting, or SEEA-EA. The SEEA is a systematic statistical framework to measure and analyse natural capital, and the use of this capital by people. The SEEA is connected to the System of National Accounts, used by statistical agencies world-wide to record economic production and consumption and derive macro-economic indicators like GDP.

The SEEA is developed under auspices of the United Nations Statistical Commission and consists of two parts. The SEEA Central Framework (SEEA CF) was published in 1993 and updated in 2012. It considers natural capital from the perspective of individual stocks of resources, and is generally used to measure non-renewable natural capital including water, oil, natural gas, and iron ore. The SEEA CF also measures physical flows between the economy and the environment and environmentally related transactions, such as environmental expenditures, within the economy.

SEEA Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) was first published in 2014, and takes a spatial and integrated perspective to measuring ecosystems and the services they provide (UN et al., 2014b). The SEEA EA records ecosystem types, condition, ecosystem services supply and use and asset value, as well as biodiversity and carbon contained in ecosystems and changes therein. A specific property of the SEEA EA is that information is analysed and recorded both in the form of maps (of ecosystem types, a set of condition indicators, and a set of ecosystem services and asset indicators) and accounting tables.

SEEA CF and EA have been developed specifically to support natural capital accounting (NCA) in the public sector, i.e. by statistical offices. However it can be used at multiple scales, from local (e.g. an estate) to national. It is also useful to support NCA in the private sector: its conceptual framework and definitions, developed after a series of broad consultations with accountants, statisticians, scientists and users of accounts is broadly applicable, including in corporate NCA. Furthermore, SEEA EA accounts generated at national scale contain datasets that are critical to support company-wide NCA, especially in those cases where individual companies are only one of several (or many) users of natural capital (NC).

This e-learning tool aims to:
  1. Introduce the user to SEEA Ecosystem Accounting
  2. Provide links to various on-line ecosystem accounting guidebooks and resources
  3. Provide examples of SEEA Ecosystem accounts
  4. Discuss applications of SEEA Ecosystem accounting
  5. Explain the account types