Ecosystems sustain society and human well-being by providing a wide spectrum of ecosystem services. Nonetheless, markets and policymakers fail to reflect the value of ecosystems appropriately in their decisions, leading to an unsustainable exploitation rate of many ecosystems over the last decades.

The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, consisting of 6 main targets and 20 actions, aims to “ halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020”. In particular, Action 5 of Target 2, “Maintain and restore ecosystems”, requires the mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their services in the entire EU territory and the integration of their economic value into accounting and reporting systems. This integration is deemed functional to providing better-informed policies, ultimately promoting a more efficient and sustainable use of natural resources.

In 2013, United Nations, European Commission, World Bank, IMF, OECD and FAO developed the System of Environmental–Economic Accounting–Experimental Ecosystem Accounts (SEEA-EEA). The integration of ecosystem assets accounts, recording changes in stocks, with ecosystem services supply and use accounts, recording the flow of generated ecosystem services and their use by different groups of beneficiaries is the novelty and value-added of this experimental framework. While SEEA-EEA requires further improvement, its potential to provide a broad, cross-cutting perspective on ecosystems and link their contribution to society has already been acknowledged and tested in several national initiatives on natural capital in Europe and worldwide.

The seminar by Dr La Notte, a leading expert in the field of ecosystem services valuation, sheds light on how the values of ecosystems and their services are mainstreamed in existing accounting framework, discuss the advantages and drawbacks of using such frameworks in the natural capital accounting initiatives and providing insights for future improvements also in light of the current EU initiative on Integrated system for Natural Capital and Ecosystem services Accounting (INCA).