Gaps in Knowledge and Further Research Needs

MFA offers an accounting framework, which provides an overall picture of the biophysical structure of an economy and thus allows the linking of socioeconomic processes to biophysical units and consequently to natural systems.

Although it is a young accounting tool, MFA has reached a high degree of methodological standardization and implementation into official statistics in the EU, Japan, and increasingly in the OECD. Additional research is needed. Several lines are already visible and will be followed in the coming years. These include the following:

• The application and improvement of calculations of NAS and RME. In developing these two indicators MFA will be opened toward discussions of the relationship between stocks and material flows and the global responsibility for material flows related to domestic final consumption.

• The disaggregation of MFA along economic sectors to improve the link of resource use to economic activities.

• The provision of physical make and use tables and in a standardized format.

• The establishment of links between the various physical accounting tools and MFA to foster integrated analysis (see Haberl et al. 2004; Krausmann et al. 2004).

Moreover, in a wider context of sustainability MFA must be linked to other issues such as transport and time use, sustainable consumption, material standard of living, and quality of life.

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