Author(s): Christie M, Hanley N, Warren J, Murphy K, Wright R, et al.
Policy makers have responded to concerns over declining levels of biodiversity by introducing a range of policy measures including agri-environment and wildlife management schemes. Costs for such measures are relatively easy to establish, but benefits are less easily estimated. Economics can help guide the design of biodiversity policy by eliciting public preferences on different attributes of biodiversity. However, this is complicated by the generally low level of awareness and understanding of what biodiversity means on the part of the general public. In this paper we report research that applied the choice experiment and contingent valuation methods to value the diversity of biological diversity. Focus groups were used to identify ecological concepts of biodiversity that were important and relevant to the public, and to discover how best to describe these concepts in a meaningful and understandable manner. A choice experiment examined a range of biodiversity attributes including familiarity of species, species rarity, habitat, and ecosystem processes, while a contingent valuation study examined public willingness to pay for biodiversity enhancements associated with agri-environmental and habitat re-creation policy. The key conclusions drawn from the valuation studies were that the public has positive valuation preferences for most, but not all, aspects of biodiversity, but that they appeared to be largely indifferent to how biodiversity protection was achieved. Finally, we also investigate the extent to which valuation workshop approaches to data collection can overcome some of the possible information problems associated with the valuation of complex goods. The key conclusion was that the additional opportunities for information exchange and group discussion in the workshops helped to reduce the variability of value estimates.
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