Ecosystem Accounting

Through the research in the Environmental Systems Analysis (ESA) group, we contribute to the development of methods for ecosystem accounting. Ecosystem accounting is an approach to Natural Capital Accounting that is grounded in the SEEA, the System of Environmental Economic Accounting. This is an international system developed under auspices of the UN Committee on Environmental Economic Accounting. Ecosystem accounting comprises information in the form of maps and accounting tables, in physical and monetary units. It is developed for application at national scale but can also be used at a finer resolution, e.g. in districts or large land holdings.

Ecosystem accounts (i) present a comprehensive overview of ecosystem capital including the different services provided by different land use and administrative units; (ii) indicate interdependencies between ecosystems and economic activities; (iii) allow measuring changes in ecosystem capital over time; and (iv) have a number of other potential applications that can support environmental management. For example, ecosystem accounting allows analysing in which part of the landscape extraction rates exceed the capacity of the ecosystem to supply the resource and thereby points to areas where current ecosystem management can be considered to be unsustainable.

The ESA group, under the research program led by prof. Lars Hein, is involved in developing the scientific underpinning of the SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting approach. In collaboration with a range of partners including the UN Statistics Division, the World Bank and Statistics the Netherlands (CBS) we contribute to the conceptual development of the SEEA EEA and it’s various extensions and applications. We develop models for ecosystem accounts and we test and apply the models in case studies around the world. We are currently, jointly with CBS, developing the first full ecosystem account in the world, for the Netherlands. This project is financed by the Dutch Ministries for Economic Affairs and Infrastructure and Environment. We are also implementing and contributing to other projects for instance in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Further information on SEEA Ecosystem accounting can be found at, and at

Projects and Publications

Carbon account of the Netherlands

Together with the Netherlands Statistics Office (CBS), we published a detailed Carbon account for the Netherlands (at a 10m grid). The Carbon account includes stocks of carbon above ground biomass, sequestration of carbon in biomass, and emissions of carbon from peat (veenweidegebieden).

You can download the complete Carbon Account here.

PLOS ONE Paper on defining Ecosystem Assets

We published a paper in PLOS ONE on how to conceptualise Ecosystem Assets, with illustrations for Limburg province (the Netherlands), Telemark (Norway) and Puget Sound (US).

Papers on integrating hydrological ecosystem services into ecosystem accounts

Towards ecosystem accounting : A comprehensive approach to modelling multiple hydrological ecosystem services, 2015. Authors: C Duku, H Rathjens, SJ Zwart, L Hein

Modelling the forest and woodland-irrigation nexus in tropical Africa: A case study in Benin, 2016. Authors C Duku, SJ Zwart, L Hein.

Quantifying trade-offs between future yield levels, food availability and forest and woodland conservation in Benin, 2017. Authors C Duku, SJ Zwart, LGJ van Bussel, L Hein:

Developing an ecosystem account for The Netherlands

We are working with CBS Statistics the Netherlands to develop an ecosystem account for the Netherlands. You can find the pilot of our project including an ecosystem account for Limburg province below.

At present (November 2017), we have developed at the national scale:

The physical ecosystem services supply and use account is close to finalised and will be published Q1 2018.

Other accounts in progress: the ecosystem condition Account, the monetary ecosystem account and the monetary asset account.

Other projects

Philippines WAVES Ecosystem Accounting Project. Lars Hein has also supported the Philippines WAVES Project that involved developing two pilot ecosystem accounts, in Palawan and in the Laguna de Bay watershed:

Currently support is being provided for testing the ecosystem accounting approach in Indonesia.