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Natural Capital Accounting of Soils for the U.N. System of Environmental Economic Accounts (UN SEEA) With Satellites

March 19, 2018 |


This paper was originally published in European Commission Joint Research Centre.

“Soils provide, and support, a range of functions that are vital to society and the performance of the earth system. A major challenge is to identify, and account for, ‘soil change’ and the contribution or impact this has on ecosystem service delivery. One way to attempt this is by better accounting for resource use and how it changes, then how this change affects other resources. Major international initiatives are seeking ways to quantify and account for change. For example, the United Nations System of Environmental Economic Accounts (SEEA).

SEEA creates satellite accounts to run alongside the U.N. system of national accounts (SNA) from which indicators like Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are derived. GDP is deficient as the costs of environmental degradation, natural resource depletion and non-market values are not included because the SNA only considers goods and services transacted in markets or accounted for as a benefit.

Worse still, the degradation and loss of environmental resources often involves additional economic activity and thus increases GDP. Thus, the current macro-economic measures of performance that inform policy and debate can provide misleading information with respect to sustainable use of resources. Here we present recent work that takes soil-monitoring data, used to identify soil change, and look at how it can be develop into accounts, suitable for the SEEA approach. We present data from the UK and Europe that allows us to understand better, the state and change of soils. All these efforts seek to identify and quantify soil change on anthropogenic time scales and provide decision-makers with an understanding of how soil natural capital is changing…”

Read on and access the full paper at: European Commission Joint Research Centre.

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