The European Commission Joint Research Center has just released the second report on Natural Capital Accounting: “Ecosystem services accounting: Part I – Outdoor recreation and crop pollination”. You can download the full report on this page.
Authors: VALLECILLO RODRIGUEZ SARA; LA NOTTE ALESSANDRA; POLCE CHIARA; ZULIAN GRAZIA; ALEXANDRIS NIKOLAOS; FERRINI SILVIA; MAES JOACHIM
The Knowledge Innovation Project on an Integrated system of Natural Capital and ecosystem services Accounting (KIP INCA) aims to develop the first ecosystem accounts at EU level, following the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting- Experimental Ecosystem Accounts (SEEA-EEA). The application of the SEEA-EEA framework is useful to illustrate ecosystem accounts with clear examples and contribute to further develop to methodology and give guidance for Natural Capital Accounting. The aim of this study is to assess and account for two ecosystem services: outdoor recreation and crop pollination. Each service was assessed biophysically within the ESTIMAP toolbox, allowing us to quantify different service components: the service potential that the ecosystems can deliver; the demand for each service; and the actual flow of the service used based on the spatial relationship between the service potential and demand. The results of the biophysical assessment were then translated into monetary units using valuation methods consistent with the System of National Accounts. Valuation methods require the integration of the key variables of the biophysical model to quantify the actual flow. In this way, changes in the value of the service are strictly linked to changes in biophysical assessment, which includes potential, demand and their spatial relationship determining the actual flow. Accounting of outdoor recreation shows that at EU level, forest ecosystems have the highest value for outdoor recreation, although this varies among countries. Households are the users of the service, with Germany being the country with the largest share of population whose demand for daily recreation is covered. As demonstrated, countries with a larger share of population living within 4 km of recreational areas present higher level of life satisfaction. EU accounting shows an overall increase in the use of the service between 2000 and 2012 (26%), mainly due to the enhancement of the recreation potential, and, to a lesser extent, to an increase in the demand (population). These results are useful to support policy decisions related to land planning, aiming at guaranteeing the equitable accessibility to outdoor recreation opportunities (citizen rights): 38% of the population at the EU have limited accessibility to recreational areas (unmet demand). We estimated for 2012 an actual flow of 40 million potential visits to recreational areas per year (daily use), with a total value of 31 billion euro. At this stage, the full accounting cannot be given for crop pollination due to the lack of connection between the available valuation methods and the biophysical model assessing the service flow. In this sense, further research is needed to develop suitable methods to link the valuation technique with the biophysical model. In spite of these limitations, the crop pollination assessment provides useful results for the EU Pollinators Initiative. The work presented in this report highlights the importance of the spatial relationship between ecosystem service potential and demand. The changes in the use of the service quite often cannot be explained solely by changes in the potential and the demand, but also by their spatial relationship. When dealing with ecosystem services the spatial component is a key driver that needs to be integrated within the accounting framework for a consistent assessment. The spatial relationship between potential and demand is different for each service. Crop pollination requires the spatial overlap between potential and demand, whereas proximity is the key spatial feature for outdoor recreation. As shown by the two examples presented here, ecosystem service accounts significantly differ depending on the service being assessed, both conceptually and methodologically. Hence, further examples of ecosystem service accounting are needed to produce accounting tables for a representative number of service. Ultimately, the availability of this information represents a key input for the analysis of synergies and trade-offs between ecosystem services.
You can download the full report on this page.