Investigating preference heterogeneity for restoring estuarine ecosystem services
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Given the general decline of estuarine ecosystem services (ES), policy makers require to understand further the drivers and barriers to increase society’s support for policies restoring them. The objective of this study is to identify significant sources of preference heterogeneity for improvements in flood control, recreation and biodiversity levels, resulting from tax-funded restoration projects that would be developed in the Clyde, Forth, and Tay catchment. We used data from a discrete choice experiment conducted in Scotland and applied several choice modelling techniques (e.g. MNL, RPL, HMXL, posterior analysis) to explore the effect of respondents socioeconomic characteristics, their latent attitudes and the local geographical context on their preferences towards policies managing estuarine ES. We found a positive and significant willingness to pay (WTP) for improving all ES, although differences in WTP estimates exist for all estuarine ES, across catchments and between user types. Recreation values were found to be lower on average than either flood control or biodiversity conservation, while preference differences emerge due to whether people live within a catchment and whether they visit it for recreational purposes or not. People visiting the areas for doing outdoor activities presented a higher latent environmental consciousness attitude. Moreover, environmentally conscious individuals showed stronger preferences for management alternatives delivering estuarine ES improvements. Finally, the presence of significant local clusters of WTP estimates suggests that respondents’ preferences interact with their immediate spatial context. Nonetheless, the local clusters of WTP for estuarine ES improvements are distributed similarly in space regardless of the ES in question, or the estuary under consideration. The research findings can be informative for designing more efficient and contextualised policies. Moreover, they can be helpful in raising the social acceptability of the policies aiming to manage estuarine ES in Scotland.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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