4632.0.55.001 - Discussion Paper: From Nature to the Table: Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, 2015-16 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/11/2017  First Issue
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This section presents the first experimental step in compiling Australian accounts for timber and forests in accordance with the SEEA AFF Framework. Some of the desired indicators within each account are not yet available and feedback is sought from users about the potential uses of these accounts, additional sources of data, and priority data gaps. See the Approach taken and future plans section.


There are three key accounts in the SEEA AFF framework that are utilised for the assessment timber and forestry resources:

  • Physical flow account for timber products (cubic metres)
  • Asset account for forests (hectares)
  • Asset account for timber resources (cubic metres).

The physical flow account for timber products records the supply and use of forestry products in physical terms with a view to focussing on the activities of harvesting timber, as distinct from the activity of processing raw timber and manufacturing wood products. In concept, the physical flow accounts should cover all production of roundwood in a country, including the output by households for their own final consumption. The entry for "intermediate consumption – manufacturing industry" relates to use of the output of roundwood by timber-related manufacturing industries, which encompasses the manufacture of wood and wood products, sawn wood, wood panels and paper and paperboard etc. This measure is equal to the volume of roundwood (logs) harvested by the logging industry adjusted for imports and exports.

The asset account for forests records the area and changes in land identified as forest and other woodland.

The timber resources asset account records the volume of marketable standing timber in terms of stock and changes in stock, such as harvesting or natural growth.


Australia has a well established institutional framework to support the conservation and economic management of Australia's forests. Forest policy in Australia is developed and implemented at national, state and territory levels, with state and territory governments holding primary responsibility for forest management. Forest policy and management involves consideration of a range of data to decide on different potential uses and management strategies to maintain the optimal balance between productivity and sustainability. This means that environmental economic accounts are well placed to support forest policy and management decisions because they can combine information on various factors like land use, timber production, and water intensity along with carbon sequestration, biodiversity and tourism.

While ecosystem services account for all services provided by forest ecosystems, the SEEA AFF focuses on the provision of timber in the context of the forest industry. SEEA AFF does not examine the other ongoing ecosystem services (e.g. climate regulation, flood mitigation and water filtration and cultural services such as recreational use). These concepts are covered under the SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting framework.

While in ecosystem services accounts the full range of services provided by forest ecosystems are presented (including regulating services such as flood mitigation and water filtration and cultural services such as recreational use), in the SEEA AFF the focus is on the provision of timber in the context of the forest industry.

Accounts on forests and timber products can support various environmental, social and economic decision-making. In terms of specific examples, these can include:
  • Carbon storage
  • Coastal management
  • Catchment hydrology and water quality
  • Prevention, preparedness, response and recovery with regard to natural disasters.

The physical flow account is useful for assessing how the economy supplies and uses roundwood timber resources, in addition to examining changes in production and consumption patterns.

Timber asset accounts have the ability to show how forest resources grow, regenerate and develop over time. This allows for both a measurement of sustainability and an understanding of the economic significance of forest resources. It supports an analysis of benefits related to timber harvesting versus other benefits such as erosion prevention and biodiversity. A key use of the timber asset account is the analysis of natural growth of timber resources compared with removals. This relates to the renewal/exploitation of the resource and any depletion/development trend.


Physical flow account

The physical flow account for timber products is presented in Table 9 on the Downloads tab.

In 2015-16 the total log harvest reached a peak of 30 million m3. Domestic log harvesting accounts for the majority of the supply of roundwood, with less than 1% of the total supply of roundwood being imported over the reporting period of 2010-11 to 2015-16 (Graph 1). Exports and consumption of roundwood by the manufacturing industry has steadily increased, following broad increases in harvest of roundwood.



(a) Intermediate consumption is calculated as the volume of logs harvested plus imports of roundwood minus exports of roundwood.
Source(s): ABARES, Forest and Wood Products Statistics, 2016

Physical asset account

The physical asset account for Australian forests is presented in Table 10, available from the Downloads tab.

Among the 125 million hectares of total forest in Australia, 123 million were native forests, 2 million hectares were plantations and less than 1 million hectares were other forests as reported in 2010-11. There have been minimal changes in plantation forestry areas over the period of 2010-11 to 2015-16 as shown in Graph 2.

Source(s): ABARES, Australian plantation statistics update 2017

Detailed state forestry asset accounts are presented in Table 11 on the Downloads tab. In 2015-16, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia accounted for the greatest proportion of plantation forests, accounting for 21%, 20% and 19% respectively of the total plantation forests in Australia.

The asset account for timber resources is presented in Table 12 on the Downloads tab. The volume of logs harvested increased from 27 million m3 to 30 million m3, a net increase of 3 million m3 (10%) from 2014-15 to 2015-16. Graph 3 shows harvest of plantation hardwood has been increasing steadily over the past 6 years, while harvest of native hardwood has been decreasing, despite a small 2% increase from 2014-15 to 2015-16. Note that native forests can include nature conservation reserves, leasehold forest, multiple-use public forest, other crown land and private land (including indigenous).



(a) Includes a small proportion of native softwood logs.
Source(s): ABARES, Forest and wood products statistics, 2016

Forest and timber asset accounts can brought together with other accounts including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which are described in the Greenhouse Gas Emissions section. In 2014-15, Australian forests stored a net 35.9 Mt CO2-e of greenhouse gas emissions, of which 6.1 Mt CO2-e were stored in plantation forests. This National Inventory data utilised Landsat satellite imagery to generate changes in forestry cover data, a different method to that used in the State of the Forests Report (SOFR).


There are two key sources for forest and timber resource information in Australia: Australia's Plantation Inventory; and the State of the Forest Report (SOFR). The Department of the Environment and Energy also compile timber and forest inventory data for the purposes of monitoring greenhouse gas stocks and flows. Data were presented for 2015-16 and a longer time series is unavailable at this stage without introducing significant modelling. This is in part due to methodological improvements in latest native forest stocks data. Some of these issues may be resolved through sourcing alternative data and further collaboration with lead agencies.

Physical flow account

Missing data for the physical flows of timber products includes the number of tree fellings, residues and bark removal. Additionally, physical data on the supply of timber products from other industries, the generation of energy or heat, consumption by households, increase in stocks and changes in inventories will be investigated for inclusion in future releases. Data are available on a range of timber products such as sawnwood, paper and paper products and wood panels, and a range of non-timber products. The ABS is seeking feedback on whether these should be included in the physical flow tables for research purposes.

Physical asset account

Compiling the tables on assets of timber proved to be challenging. Current information relates to the stands of trees in hectares (a measure of area) and the changes in these assets over the time period in cubic metres of wood product. At the time of publishing, there was no agreed methodology for estimating the mass of standing trees in cubic metres or tonnes. There are some promising techniques for developing a measure of mass or volume. As an example, Dittmann et al (2017) (footnote 1) suggested that there was some accuracy to the derivation of volumes using Lidar, which uses the time taken for light to travel when measuring an object and optical measurement (satellite imagery) for large areas. Scientific and technical expertise will be needed to fill this gap on a national scale.

1 S. Dittmann et al. Applicability of different non-invasive methods for tree mass estimation: A review. Forest Ecology and Management 398 (2017) 208–215. <back