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The aim of this discussion paper is to review the proposal for a Common International Standard for Ecosystem Services (CICES) made to the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD) to the in 2010, as part of the revision of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA).

The development of the CICES took note of the considerable body of work that exists in relation to the development of typologies for describing ecosystem services the standards describing economic products and activities. The goal was to propose a standard classification of ecosystem services would both be consistent with accepted categorisations and conceptualisations and allow the easy translation of statistical information between different applications.

Although the original aim for developing CICES was to facilitate the more consistent use of data in constructing ecosystem accounts, recent developments suggest that the classification may have a wider role. It may assist, for example, in linking work on the development of environmental accounts with the more general discussion of how natural capital stocks and flows can be characterised and assessed.

n this paper a number of issues surrounding the application of CICES are considered, in relation to: the analysis of scale and the spatial relationships between supply and demand for ecosystem services; the use of renewability as a boundary condition for the classification; the differentiation of ecosystem goods from ecosystem services; and, the role of CICES in ecosystem capital accounting frameworks. The following issues are then posed for discussion:

  • To what extent is the hierarchical structure of CICES suitable for meeting the requirements for analysis at different spatial and thematic scales of resolution?
  • To what is the hierarchical structure of CICES able to support the analysis and reporting of changes in the value of different kinds of good generated by ecosystem services?
  • Does the criterion of renewability remain an appropriate boundary condition for defining the scope of CICES?
  • Is the present structure of CICES necessary and/or sufficient to support the implementation and testing of the experimental ecosystem capital accounting framework

Download the report here.