4680.0.55.001 - Information Paper: An Experimental Ecosystem Account for the Great Barrier Reef Region, 2015 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/04/2015  First Issue
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For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.


The standards governing environmental-economic accounting ('environmental accounts') are agreed internationally and are described in the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA). The SEEA is endorsed by six key international economic and environmental organisations: the European Commission; the Food and Agriculture Organisation; the International Monetary Fund; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; the United Nations; and the World bank. The SEEA is available online at: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/envaccounting/seeaRev/SEEA_CF_Final_en.pdf.

The framework and associated accounts described in the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting 2012 - Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA-EEA) are a complement to the to the conceptual framework and accounts presented in the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting. SEEA-EEA, however, is not an international standard for ecosystem accounts. The framework has been drafted by the European Commission (EC), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC) and World Bank. It is consistent with the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting and the 2008 System of National Accounts (2008 SNA).

The Experimental Ecosystem Account for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Region is designed to highlight the interaction between terrestrial and marine economic activities (which rely on ecosystems), and the condition of the environment in which these activities are undertaken. This information paper introduces the main features of the account, and has two aims. The first is to provide feedback to the United Nations Statistical Division on the development of SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting. The ABS intends to use this feedback to build and improve future accounts. The second aim of the paper is to connect some of the very large body of scientific work being undertaken in the region to other environmental and macro-economic indicator accounts that are compiled by the ABS.


Estimates contained in the experimental ecosystem account are largely presented on a financial year basis, however some data are presented on a calendar year basis due to data availability. The estimates relate to a range of ecosystem themes. Some of the estimates are sourced from well-developed data production systems, while other sources have only recently been developed. As a result, some the data contained in this account are more timely than others. The most recent data contained in the ecosystem account relate to the financial year 2013-14, and the ecosystem accounts is being released 9 months after the reference period for most data.


Accuracy remains the main focus of ABS quality management. In the case of ecosystem accounts, it is recognised internationally that an objective accuracy measure, in the sense of proximity to a 'true value', is near-impossible to measure. The ecosystem account is a complex set of environmental and economic statistics. It combines a large number of ABS and non-ABS data sources covering various aspects of the environment and the economy to derive a number of statistical tables, including various headline measures.

The ecosystem account compilation process transforms a range of data into sets of environmental accounts. A number of integrated measures are produced, including ecosystem services (resource rent) measures designed to assess the value or benefit derived from various ecosystem services. Typically, the production of these integrated measures requires adjustments to underlying data in order to ensure a consistent conceptual basis to the data. These adjustments involve the use of various methods, data and assumptions. Further information on these is included in the Explanatory Notes to this information paper.

Given the variety of data used, and the adjustments/transformations undertaken in the compilation of the ecosystem account, an overall assessment of accuracy is necessarily subjective. It involves an assessment of underlying data, the adjustments and transformations made including assumptions used. The ABS aims to achieve best practice in each of these facets of ecosystem account compilation.


A key characteristic of environmental accounting, especially in comparison with other types of environmental information, is its coherence, both among the various items of environmental information and with related economic accounts. The ecosystem account for the GBR Region is the first ecosystem account to be published for any region in Australia, and it has been compiled in accordance with the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) framework. It presents estimates of ecosystems services for the key industries of the Great Barrier Reef Region, as well as associated issues such as biodiversity.

For example, many sets of environmental indicators are often appropriate for their designed purpose but cannot be integrated with other environmental information or with economic information, limiting their usefulness and limiting the capacity to assess data quality. The ecosystem account in contrast is based on the principles and structures of the SEEA, and represents a cohesive, integrated set of environmental and economic information.

This account makes use of Input-Output tables from the Australian System of National Accounts (ASNA) to derive ecosystem service (resource rent) measures. National level data from the Australian System of National Accounts (cat. no. 5204.0) and Australian National Accounts; Tourism Satellite Account (cat. no. 5249.0) have been broken down to a regional level using proxy data items for regional activity in tourism and in agriculture. For food provisioning services, the proxy item for splitting national data to Natural Resource Management Regions was the gross value of agricultural production. This was derived from publications based on the ABS Agricultural Survey and Agricultural Census (see cat. nos. 7111.0 and 7501.0).


The ecosystem account provides analysis and commentary in each section of the information paper. The account uses commentary, tables and maps to guide reader understanding and interpretation of detailed data tables. The Explanatory Notes to this information paper provide further guidance on the data used in this account, along with links to supporting environmental and economic accounts publications for further information on concepts, methodologies and data sources.

The interpretation of environmental accounts is assisted by an understanding of the policy context in which these data used. This is further elaborated in ABS Completing the Picture: Environmental Accounting in Practice which is available online at: https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4628.0.55.001May%202012


Please see the Environmental Accounts Topics @ a Glance for links to all environmental and ecosystem accounts related data and publications, recent environmental accounts changes and forthcoming events, relevant websites and a range of information about Australia's Environmental Economic Accounts.