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Mapping and Assessment for Integrated ecosystem Accounting (MAIA)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MAIA (Mapping and Assessment for Integrated ecosystem Accounting (MAIA))

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-04-30

MAIA (Mapping and Assessment for Integrated ecosystem Accounting) aims to mainstream natural capital and ecosystem accounting (NCA) in EU Member States (MS). MAIA uses the System of Environmental Economic Accounting – Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA-EEA) as the methodological basis for NCA. The SEEA EEA is a system for NCA developed under auspices of the UN Statistical Commission. It provides a consistent framework for analysing and storing information on ecosystem assets and flows of ecosystem services. The SEEA is part of the System of National Accounts, used by statistical agencies world-wide for the production of economic and other statistics. In MAIA, a flexible approach is followed, allowing for adaptation of the SEEA EEA framework to the conditions of the individual EU MS.
The specific objectives of MAIA are to: (i) assess policy priorities for NCA; (ii) test, pilot and mainstream NCA in EU MS through the compilation of pilot accounts; (iii) test innovative approaches for NCA in the European context; and (iv) support NCA in EU MS through various communication and dissemination activities such as the development of guidelines, a website and other facilitating actions.
The first activities of MAIA have been dedicated to assess the state-of-the-art of natural capital and ecosystem accounting in each participating countries and the EU and to determine policy priorities that will guide the development of pilot accounts with the support of the project. This has been achieved by engaging stakeholders at national and pan-European levels, through workshops, surveys and interviews. Outcomes of these stakeholder consultations are presented in two reports which summarize the state-of-the-art and policy priorities with regards to natural capital and ecosystem accounting in countries participating to MAIA. Following these consultations, pilot accounts to be compiled with the support of MAIA have been identified in each participating country. Ongoing and planned pilot accounts cover all SEEA EEA core and thematic accounts. Accounts will be compiled at different scales (national, regional, local), and some accounts will focus on specific ecosystem types (e.g. marine, urban, forest). Interviews with national stakeholders were proceeded to identify problems faced, needs and gaps related to these pilot accounts. The project will provide support to participating countries through technical exchanges between partners and capacity building events. Such activities will target the overall community of stakeholders involved in NCA in the EU and ultimately support the establishment of a pan-EU community of practice on NCA. First capacity building and EU stakeholders workshops towards the establishment of a NCA community of practice were organized by the project in May 2020.
In parallel, project partners have been testing innovative approaches for NCA in five thematic areas: (i) modeling water regulation services in support of ecosystem accounting, (ii) exploring big data sources for quantifying cultural services, (iii) valuing Ecosystem Services and Ecosystem Assets, (iv) biodiversity accounting, and (v) piloting marine accounts. These innovative research tasks aim to fill key knowledge gaps in natural capital and ecosystem accounting, thereby supporting the compilation of accounts in EU member states. In this first period, the project has generated nine publications in scientific journals. Other outputs are technical exchanges between partners, shared technical resources (e.g. a catalogue of models for water regulation modelling for the needs of ecosystem accounting), and pilot accounts (seven are in preparation or developed).
The project contributed to a large range of dissemination and communication activities on natural capital and ecosystem accounting, such as presenting the project activities in conferences and expert groups (such as MAES WG), stakeholders consultations at national and EU levels, dissemination of information on the website and social media, scientific publications and coordination with SEEA NCAVES project Valuation Guidelines and contribution to the revised SEEA EEA guidelines. In addition, MAIA is developing a web-based analytical tool to support dissemination and analysis of accounts. A beta-version of the tool has been prepared, consisting of spatial management data infrastructure, user interface and first functionalities (maps display, statistics extraction). Accounts from three countries are already available in the tool. It will be accessible to the public later in the project when it has been fully developed.
MAIA has published several papers in which apply state of the art SEEA EEA ecosystem accounting techniques, among others in Spain and the Netherlands. These papers express methods and applications of ecosystem accounting. Furthermore a conceptual paper has been published (in ‘Ecosystem Services’) that shows how big data can be used to assess cultural ecosystem services. This paper attempts to provide new input to the discussions on defining and mapping cultural services and on the use of voluntary shared data to support ecosystem accounting. However, at the same time, more research and development is needed before ecosystem accounting can be standardised and generally agreed concepts, definitions and measurement approaches are available for all components of the ecosystem accounting approach. The MAIA project will contribute to that development by further exploring monetary valuation approaches for ecosystem services and assets, further testing approaches to use big data (e.g. anonymised mobile phone data), testing approaches to develop ecosystem accounts for coastal areas (in France and Finland), biodiversity accounting (for instance in Greece) and hydrological services modelling. Furthermore, the project will further promote the use of ecosystem accounts to support policy making. This will be done in several ways: (i) by establishing a community of practice to disseminate ecosystem accounting approaches; (ii) by piloting accounts in the participating countries at both local and national level (work has started on pilot accounts in each of the MAIA countries) ; and (iii) by testing how the information in the ecosystem accounts can be best made available to the user with a user interface (a beta version is ready and has been shown on the May 2020 MAIA meeting; after further development it will be made publicly available). Furthermore, it will be tested with the European Commission how ecosystem accounts can support specific policies, including monitoring of the public benefits of the CAP and the new LULUCF policies, which ecosystem accounting can support by detailed and standardised land use and carbon stocks and flow mapping.