Valuing nature conservation interests

Various techniques have been developed for valuing ecosystem services and in a recently published paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology seven methods of valuing nature conservation interest have been assessed and compared by a team consisting of members from The Open University, Cranfield University and the Institute for European Environmental Policy.

The ecosystem approach is gaining increased attention from policy makers and as a result ecologists are frequently being asked to place values on ecosystem services. Valuing ecosystem services allows comparisons between sites and management regimes, however ecosystem services which do not provide direct provisions such as food, are notoriously difficult to value due to a lack of direct monetary worth.

In the Journal of Applied Ecology, Rouquette et al. determined the current land use of five lowland floodplain sites in England and developed four different scenarios of future management. Seven methods of determining value of the land-use and habitats predicted under each scenario were assessed. Methods were based on predefined priorities (Environmental Impact Assessment criteria, UKBAP target achievement and reserve selection criteria), stated preferences of stakeholders and monetary values (agri-environment scheme valuation and contingent valuation; a willingness of people to pay for ecosystem services).

The outcome of each valuation method was generally consistent however each method empathised different aspects of conservation value. For example, contingent valuation placed a high value on wetland habitats whereas the agri-environment scheme placed a low value on this habitat. The advantages and disadvantages of each emphasis between these current methods are discussed. The authors are encouraged by the general consensus between methods and believe that as interest continues in valuing ecosystem services a preferred method will emerge for each type of situation.

For further information please see Rouquette, J. R. Posthumus, H., Gowing, D. J. G., Tucker, G., Dawson, Q. L., Hess, T. M. and Morris, J. (2009) Valuing nature-conservation interests on agricultural floodplains. Journal of Applied Ecology. 46(2): 289-296.