What’s in a name? The use of quantitative measures versus ‘Iconised’ species when valuing biodiversity

Author(s): Jacobsen JB, Boiesen JH, Thorsen BJ, Strange N


Valuing biodiversity is a key challenge to environmental economics, put into focus by policy developments everywhere, now increasingly focusing on habitat preservation. This paper addresses two questions as part of this challenge. Firstly, habitats as such - often in the form of particular landscapes - may be of value to people, i.e. independently of the value adhered to the species at risk in the particular habitat. Secondly, the question of how to present the biodiversity at risk to respondents is addressed. We design a choice experiment to investigate these questions in a setting where respondents are asked to evaluate the preservation of the Danish heath and its endangered species. Results indicate that the value of the habitat, the landscape itself, can be captured reasonably well in a specific attribute representing size of the habitat, and the parameter estimate of this attribute was little affected by changes in the biodiversity protection attribute. By simply naming and hence ‘iconising’ only a few species we received dramatically higher value estimates than when using a quantitative description. We conclude that using ‘iconised’ species for valuing biodiversity at habitat level may lead to very high, potentially overestimated, values of species preservation and we discuss which estimates to use in real-world conservation planning. The paper also contributes to the ongoing debate on embedding-issues, and the inclusion of a CV-question in the questionnaire allows an in-sample comparison with the choice experiment with regard to respondents’ ability to respond to scale.

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