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Guidance on experimental biodiversity accounting using the SEEA-EEA framework

30 September 2015

Biodiversity, which incorporates the diversity of ecosystems, species and genes, plays an essential role in supporting human well-being through maintaining functioning ecosystems that in turn deliver essential services such as food and the regulation of our climate, as well as other benefits such as aesthetic enjoyment of natural landscapes. 

However, accounting for the variable components of biodiversity is complex and is less advanced than water or carbon accounting. To address the gap in accounting knowledge, UNEP-WCMC has developed technical guidance on experimental biodiversity accounting in collaboration with the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB).

The technical guidance on experimental biodiversity accounting is an output of a project to advance the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (EEA). The SEEA-EEA provides a framework to measure and link ecosystem service flows supported by biodiversity and other ecosystem characteristics, such as soil type and altitude, with the economy and other human livelihood activities, such as growing food or gathering water for consumption.

The Biodiversity Account is one of a number of accounts in the SEEA-EEA framework. The technical guidance document on experimental biodiversity accounting has been developed for practitioners who wish to collect and organize data about the status and trends of ecosystems and species diversity, and incorporate this into the SEEA-EEA framework for national accounting. The benefit of this approach is that it organizes information on biodiversity in a spatial format consistent with other national statistical frameworks. As such, the accounting framework allows comparison and integration of data on biodiversity and ecosystem services with other economic and social data, for example, data on sector performance or from census surveys. Using the account, practitioners will be able to understand the relationship between biodiversity, economic development and planning activity.

The technical guidance document uses case studies from around the world to show countries examples of how they can implement biodiversity accounting, depending on the amount of data available. The experimental Biodiversity Accounts are not necessarily prescriptive of a recommended course of action, instead they now require testing, refining and validation in different contexts and levels of data availability in order to determine their suitability for integration into national accounting systems and informing decision-making.

Publication information

UNEP-WCMC (2015) Experimental Biodiversity Accounting as a component of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA-EEA). Supporting document to the Advancing the SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting project. United Nations.