Ecosystem accounting to support the Common Agricultural Policy

Nicolas Grondard*, Lars Hein, Lenny G.J. Van Bussel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The System of Environmental-Economic Accounting - Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) provides an integrated statistical framework which organizes spatially explicit data on environmental quality, natural capital and ecosystem services and links this information to economic activities such as agriculture. In this paper we assess how the SEEA EA can support the monitoring and evaluation of environmental objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). We focus on the Netherlands, for which an elaborate set of SEEA EA accounts has been published, and the themes of nitrogen pollution and farmland biodiversity. We studied the completeness of indicators included in the accounts, their quality and analysed how the accounts could support agri-environmental reporting, agri-environmental measures effectiveness assessments, and results-based payments to farmers. As a reference we used the Driving forces – Pressures – State – Impacts - Responses (DPSIR) framework. The Dutch SEEA EA accounts only include half of the indicators which we considered essential to assess the effects of farming on natural capital and ecosystem services for the two studied environmental themes. However, most gaps in the accounts could be filled with other publicly available environmental monitoring data. Regarding N pollution, the availability and reliability of indicators at landscape and farm scales are not sufficient to support the assessment of agri-environmental measures effectiveness and results-based payments to decrease N pollution. The accounts have a higher potential to support the assessment of measures to conserve farmland biodiversity, in particular due to high resolution maps of ecosystem extent and ecosystem services flows. The potential of the SEEA EA accounts may be more limited in other countries where ecosystem accounting has only recently started. However, the SEEA EA is also implemented at the European Union scale, so that SEEA EA indicators will gradually become available for all European countries. To enhance the relevance of the SEEA EA in the agri-environmental policy area, we recommend to integrate information on farming emissions (externalities) recorded in the SEEA Central Framework with SEEA EA accounts and evaluate the applicability of SEEA EA accounts for case studies at landscape and farm scales. Our research shows that the Dutch SEEA EA accounts, complemented with other data sources, have potential to strongly enhance the CAP monitoring and evaluation framework but further steps need to be taken to fill data gaps.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108157
JournalEcological Indicators
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Agri-environment measures
  • CAP
  • Ecosystem services
  • Farming externalities
  • Natural capital


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