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GEO 2017-2019 Work Programme


Earth Observations for Ecosystem Accounting (EO4EA)

Activity ID: 111


This initiative will seek to understand and enhance the use of Earth Observations for the development of Ecosystem Accounts based upon and consistent with the UN System of Environmental Accounts – Experimental Ecosystem Accounts.  The initiative will include participants from both the Earth Observation and Ecosystem Accounting communities at all levels of the initiative.

The EO4EA initiative is fully grounded in the GEO Strategic Plan 2016-2025, seeking to “improve the effectiveness of GEO’s actions, to broaden engagement and collaboration of stakeholders,” as called for by the 2014 GEO Ministerial Summit.  This initiative will include stakeholders and users as active partners across the public, private, academic and NGO sectors.  These partners include environmental and ecosystem accountants, statisticians, environmental economists, ecologists, resouce managers and policy makers.

The Initiative also responds to the Mandate of the GEO Mexico City Declaration of 2015.  Specifically, the initiative - will be an active collaboration “with statistical agencies and others to integrate Earth observations with social and economic data to multiply their collective value and to contribute solutions that are linked from the global to local levels." and that "GEO and it's Earth observation and information will support the implementation of... the UN system of Environmental and Economic Accounts."

By facilitating the development of ecosystem accounts in a more timely and accurate manner, the initiative will provide governments with tools to aid  development planning and assessment and  to inform management and policy options for any activity which will use of impact a country’s natural capital or substantial flows of ecosystem services from those flows.  EO4EA will also contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs).  It will contribute to many of the “societal benefit areas” identified by GEO.

EO4EA will compile current Ecosystem Accounting efforts across varied themes and scales to synthesize our understanding of how Earth observations (EOs) were utilized in ecosystem accounts.  It will further assess the gaps in available EOs and issues associate with sampling, data and information processing and will identify further research needs.

 EO4EA will assess how EOs can contribute to monitoring and assessing ecosystem extent and condition.  It will also look at how EOs can contribute to the measurement and monitoring of ecosystem services.

Activities for the period

EO4EA has initially identified four related 4 work streams (WS) which should mutually reinforce each other.  Each work stream will be managed by a task force with an identified lead(s).

WS 1will compile an overview of current Ecosystem Accounting efforts, at various themes and scales, and inventory the extent to which they used Earth observations (EOs).  It will further assess the gaps in available EOs and issues associated with sampling, data and information processing and identify further research needs.

WS 2 will assess to how EOs can contribute to monitoring and assessing ecosystem extent and condition.  The WS2 task force will review the characteristics and definitions of ecosystems and how EOs can be used to map and monitor their extent and condition.  They  will provide input to the UN Statistical Commission’s revision of the technical guidelines for the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (EEA) (SEEA–EEA) in 2017 and beyond.  They will also develop an outline for methodological guidance on the use of EOs for Ecosystem Accounts including recommendations on definitions, indicators, scale and temporality, sampling regimes and the opportunities and challenges of using various types of sensors from satellite to in situ.

WS 3 will also look at how EOs can contribute to the identification, measurement and monitoring of ecosystem services.  This effort will be done in close collaboration with the UN Statistical Commission and build on the efforts of the US EPA and EEA definitional work in these areas and look at how EOs may be able to contribute to these efforts.  This work will also include the identification of research needs, with regard to tools and analytics to translate EOs into accounting frameworks and its use in valuation efforts and as a compliment to the UN Statistics Division System of National Accounts.

WS 4 will develop pilots to test improved data and methods of using EOs for Ecosystem Accounting, based on products generated at continental and regional scales and to for the development of Ecosystem Accounts at national and sub-national levels.

User engagement

The Statistical Agencies and ecosystem accountants, environmental economists,ecologists resource managers and policy makers will all participate in the initiative, which is designed to facilitate broader use of Earth observations. 

Future plans

EO4EA will work closely with the UN Statistical Commission, especially its Committee on Environmental and Economic Accounts (UN-CEEA) and London Group on Environmental Accounting.   It will build on and coordinate its efforts so that they complement the work of the Statistical Commission and its sub-bodies, which are the standard setting bodies for the SEEA. The EO4EA initiate also includes among its members the World Bank – Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) Partnership.   The Initiative will also reach out to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)/UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Conference of European Statisticians, and to efforts addressing land cover mapping and ecosystem services assessment.


Support is in-kind initially.  Several USGEO agencies have committed resource to supporting the effort.  As the initiative begins to take action, engage others and produce results we anticipate that additional resources can be identified.


Members: Canada, Colombia, Mexico, the Netherlands, USA.

Participating Organizations: Conservation International, EEA, ESA, World Bank - Wealth accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) partnership.

Others: ESRI

Linkages across the Work Programme

Flagships: GEO BON; GFOI.

Initiatives: AfriGEOSS; AmeriGEOSS; Earth Observations in Service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; GEOGLOWS; Oceans and Society: Blue Planet

Leadership & Contributors (this list is being populated)




Implementing Entity



Daniel Juhn




Timothy Max Wright