A new paper makes significant achievements in the field of ecosystem accounting for the ocean by presenting the first attempt at compiling accounts aligned with the UN System of Environmental Economic Accounting – Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) at a regional sea scale to reveal the wealth hidden below the waves.
Ecosystem Accounting offers a robust framework for quantifying and valuing ecosystem extent, condition, and services, enabling the identification of ecological degradation and the evaluation of economic activities’ risks and dependencies on the environment. The OSPAR Convention, committed to safeguarding the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, has embraced the accounting for natural capital and ecosystem services, with the SEEA EA providing the international standard.
This research paves the way for a comprehensive understanding of the OSPAR region’s natural capital and ecosystem services. The study entailed the identification of open-access data, the production of accounts for selected ecosystems, valuation of their services and asset value, and the revelation of crucial challenges and invaluable lessons.
The ecosystem services included in the analyses were fish provisioning, carbon sequestration, and outdoor recreation across OSPAR contracting parties’ coastal and marine environments. This exercise shed light on the need to overcome challenges including the lack of fitting data at the regional level and the imperative for spatially explicit linkages and harmonization to expand ecosystem accounting. It also offers valuable recommendations, including a shift towards ecosystem-type-based data collection, harmonization of data among countries, and the establishment of systematic data collection practices to facilitate data sharing and standardization.
It is key to emphasize that this work represents an initial step towards progressing ecosystem accounting practices not only in the OSPAR region but can serve as overall guidance for other regions in first steps regional ecosystem accounting, and it shows that, even with limited data and incomplete time-series, accounts can be compiled.
As the world faces unprecedented environmental challenges, understanding and measuring our marine ecosystems and how they change are of paramount importance. This research sets the stage for transformative actions towards sustainable development and underscores the critical need for further advancements in regional ecosystem accounting.
Alarcon Blazquez MG, van der Veeren R, Gacutan J, James PAS (2023) Compiling preliminary SEEA Ecosystem Accounts for the OSPAR regional sea: experimental findings and lessons learned. One Ecosystem 8: e108030. https://doi.org/10.3897/oneeco.8.e108030
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