The latest methodological and technical advances in regards to ecosystem accounting were shared during the UN´s 2018 Forum of Experts in Experimental Ecosystem Accounting in Long Island, New York.
The process of valuing ecosystem services - what nature does for people and other living beings - is not just about money, but also an important aspect of good environmental planning and management. This realization, coupled with natural capital’s strong influence on conservation-related investment and policy-making decisions, is directly related to the growing interest in using accounting frameworks to better understand and relate Earth’s environments with the economy.
To aid in developing said accounting frameworks, the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and the System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA),in collaboration with UN Environment, the World Bank, and the European Union through the project “Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services.” organized the Forum of Experts in SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting 2018. The event, held this year from 18-20 June in Glen Cove, Long Island, sought to further improve both the theory and best practices of ecosystem accounting, by providing the 96 attendants a space to showcase methodological and technical advances and work towards the development of practical guidance documents. Participants included statisticians, researchers and experts in the area of ecosystem accounting, ecosystem modelling, spatial analysis of ecosystem services, and environmental and ecological economics, as well as earth observation specialists.
More than 30 presentations, among which we highlight an introductory presentation by IUCN Red List of Ecosystems representative Dr. Carlos Zambrana-Torrelio from EcoHealth Alliance, and a wide range of discussions took place during the event’s 21 sessions. Dr. Zambrana-Torrelio presented on the ecosystem classification methodology developed by the RLE team and validated by IUCN-CEM. Although there are several ecosystem classification systems most of them rely on physical or climatic attributes, failing to include ecological characteristics that define an ecosystem -- this is what sets RLE’s methodology apart from most. A second presentation focused both on the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Categories and Criteria, and on how RLE’s framework could be used within the SEEA framework - thereby becoming a reference for other initiatives in regards to ecosystem accounting. The RLE framework was well received and supported by UN SEEA members.
Learning to manage ecosystems correctly, particularly as we face global warming and climate change, is an issue of wide public concern with implications for both biodiversity and human well-being. Events like this forum and the increasing amount of research on the environment and its relationship with the economy, are a clear testimony of this fact. Working as a team to further understand ecosystem services, as well as the contribution of environment to the economy and the impact of the economy on the environment is, therefore, of the utmost importance and should be encouraged.
Written by: Carlos Zambrana-Torrelio and Clara Gómez
Style and format: Lila García and Clara Gómez
Translation: Claudia Paredes
Provita Jul 25, 2018