Water purification is the ecosystem service with the highest aggregated value – new report on ecosystem services in the EU


Ecosystems contribute essential services to the economy and society. The latest EU report “Accounting for­ ecosystems and their­ services in the­ European Union unravels the benefits that forests, rivers, grasslands, wetlands and other ecosystems provide. It shows how restoring degraded ecosystems has the potential to double nature’s contribution to the EU economy and society.

Based on 2012 data, EU’s ecosystems generated an annual flow of selected seven ecosystem services at the value of € 172 billion. Forests delivered almost half of this supply. In 2019, the economic value provided by a wider set of ecosystem services in the EU amounted to € 234 billion. Water purification is the ecosystem service with the highest aggregated value, followed by nature-based recreation.

Despite the crucial role of ecosystems for our economy and society, there is no established and regular measurement of ecosystem condition or of the number of services they supply.

The EU INCA project aims to close that gap by delivering an integrated system of ecosystem accounts for the EU. The report summarises the key results of this project, showing practical examples of possible uses of ecosystem services accounts and existing policy applications. It allows scientists, statisticians and policymakers to learn how ecosystems and their services support our society, what changes in ecosystems and ecosystem services took place in the EU in the past couple of decades and how all this can be measured in a standardised and comparable way.

The Commission is going to propose the revision of the Regulation on European Environmental Economic Accounts (EEEA) to expand its coverage to include a new module on natural capital accounting, fully consistent with the UN framework.

This is in line with the recommendation of the European Court of Auditors and the recent mid-term review of the European Strategy for environmental accounts (ESEA) 2019-2023. The EU could then become the global front-runner as being the first continent in the world to report on changes in ecosystems and their services.


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