Progress in natural capital accounting for ecosystems

Hein, Lars; Bagstad, Kenneth J.; Obst, Carl; Edens, Bram; Schenau, Sjoerd; Castillo, Gem; Soulard, Francois; Brown, Claire; Driver, Amanda; Bordt, Michael; Steurer, Anton; Harris, Rocky; Caparrós, Alejandro


Reversing the ongoing degradation of the planet's ecosystems requires timely and detailed monitoring of ecosystem change and uses. Yet, the System of National Accounts (SNA), first developed in response to the economic crisis of the 1930s and used by statistical offices worldwide to record economic activity (for example, production, consumption, and asset accumulation), does not make explicit either inputs from the environment to the economy or the cost of environmental degradation (1, 2). Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (EEA), part of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA), has been developed to monitor and report on ecosystem change and use, using the same accounting approach, concepts, and classifications as the SNA (3). The EEA is part of the statistical community's response to move SNA measurement “beyond gross domestic product (GDP).” With the first generation of ecosystem accounts now published in 24 countries, and with a push to finalize a United Nations (UN) statistical standard for ecosystem accounting by 2021, we highlight key advances, challenges, and opportunities.