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Web-Based Methods for Valuing Wetlands Services

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The project develops and tests web-based methods for valuing wetland ecosystem characteristics and services. Previous research shows that non-market services, including habitat services, are associated with wetland ecosystems. The value of these services may be measured using non-market valuation methods. Previous research shows that these non-market values are economically significant relative to other wetland values. However, previous results have been criticized for placing too much emphasis on the question of "What is the value?" and not enough emphasis on "What it is that people value?" The objective of the research is examine what it is that people value regarding wetlands ecosystems. A web-based, stated preference questionnaire will be developed and used to elicit respondents evaluations of wetlands with different types of services and characteristics. The relative value of the different services and characteristics will be estimated using the elicited evaluations.

Approach: The research will develop an interactive, web-based wetland valuation survey questionnaire that will be applied to a selected sample. Qualitative research will be used to learn about what the public might value about different wetland types. The qualitative findings will be used to construct a questionnaire that uses lay concepts and terms and is readily understood by respondents. The qualitative research will be used to identify gaps in respondents' knowledge. A scientific data base will be developed to fill in these gaps and answer respondents' needs for more information. The web-based questionnaire will allow respondents to query and interact with the information database as they complete a series of stated preference valuation questions. The interactive process will be refined and analyzed in a series of pretests. The web-based medium will also facilitate the representation and comparison of wetlands with different features and characteristics. The stated preference questions about wetland characteristics will be based on a statistically efficient, adaptive experimental design. The web-assisted, adaptive design will update the described levels of characteristics given the preference data obtained in previous questions. The final questionnaire will be administered to a selected sample. The sample will be structured to test the effects of information on elicited preferences and to estimate the relative values of alternative wetland types and characteristics. Discrete choice methods including a heteroskedastic logit model will be used in the estimation process.

Expected Results: The web-based questionnaire provides an alternative method for eliciting stated preferences and wetland values through wide area survey samples. The interactive approach encourages valuation choices by respondents that are informed by the best available scientific information. A comparison of alternative informational treatments sheds light on the extent that the scientific information may influence respondents' choices. The questionnaire and estimation procedures will provide a template for valuing other complex habitats and ecosystems. The estimated economic values for wetlands characteristics will be useful in assessing the economic tradeoffs of national and regional policies for wetlands remediation and compensation. Knowledge of the economic tradeoffs across wetland characteristics will help in identifying the policies that provide the greatest environmental benefit for a given policy cost.

Metadata

EPA/NSF ID:
R827922
Principal Investigators:
Hoehn, John
Kaplowitz, Michael D.
Lupi, Frank
Technical Liaison:
Research Organization:
Michigan State University
Funding Agency/Program:
EPA/ORD/Valuation
Grant Year:
1999
Project Period:
October 1, 1999 to September 30, 2002
Cost to Funding Agency:
$227,758
Project Status Reports:
For the Year 2000

Objective:
The project develops and tests web-based methods for valuing wetland ecosystem characteristics and services. Previous research shows that nonmarket services, including habitat services, are associated with wetland ecosystems. The value of these services may be measured using nonmarket valuation methods. Previous research shows that these nonmarket values are economically significant relative to other wetland values; however, previous results have been criticized for placing too much emphasis on the question of "What is the value?" and not enough emphasis on "What it is that people value?" The objective of the research is to examine what it is that people value regarding wetlands ecosystems. A Web-based, stated preference questionnaire will be developed and used to elicit respondents' evaluations of wetlands with different types of services and characteristics. The relative value of the different services and characteristics will be estimated using the elicited evaluations.

Progress Summary:

The research effort currently is in the initial qualitative research phase of the project. The qualitative research is helping us learn "what" people value about wetland ecosystems. This step will be used to help the researchers determine the functions and services that should be the focus of the valuation effort.

A series of focus groups were conducted to elicit Michigan residents' knowledge of wetland ecosystems. Participants demonstrated better than expected general knowledge of wetland ecosystems, but their detailed knowledge of wetland functions and services was uneven. More specifically, discussion participants recognized habitat for plants and animals as a key wetland function. A smaller portion identified maintenance of water quality and water storage as important wetland functions. Misperceptions also were revealed. For example, several respondents thought that trees do not grow in wetlands and that wetlands kill trees despite the fact that wooded wetlands are common in Michigan.

Future Activities:
Qualitative work will continue into the next phase of the project to help the researchers learn what it is about wetlands, wetland services, and wetland characteristics that matter to people. Survey and questionnaire development are ongoing. In addition to further clarify respondents' baseline knowledge and language, upcoming focus groups will be used to evaluate the elements of a stated preference Web-based survey questionnaire. These elements will include diagrams, pictures, and other information treatments to convey changes in wetland services. Based on the information learned in the focus groups as well as in interviews with wetland scientists, a prototype Web-based questionnaire is being developed.

The draft instrument will be pretested using one-on-one interviews. Specially trained interviewers will oversee the administration of the draft instruments to respondents selected from the target audience. The interviewers will collect feedback and other information about the Web-based survey instruments and the subject matter. Based upon the information learned during pretests, the draft instrument will be modified. It is expected that the qualitative data gathered will provide a basis for understanding how individuals make trade-offs between wetland characteristics. This process will yield the Web-based survey instrument, which is anticipated by the end of Year 2. The Web-based survey will provide a basis for understanding how individuals make trade-offs between wetland characteristics.

Presentation:

Hoehn JP. Do wetlands kill trees? Knowledge as an input in ecosystem valuation. Presented at the Stated Preference: What do we know? Where do we go? Workshop, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Center for Environmental Economics and National Center for Environmental Research, Washington, DC, October 12, 2000.

Proceedings:

Hoehn JP, Lupi F, Kaplowitz M. Do Wetlands kill trees? Knowledge as an input in ecosystem valuation. In: Proceedings of the Stated Preference: What do we know? Where do we go? Workshop, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Center for Environmental Economics and National Center for Environmental Research, Washington, DC, October 12, 2000.

Report:

Heyboer G, Hoehn JP, Kaplowitz M, Lupi F. Wetland uses and functions as perceived by Mid-Michigan residents: qualitative research results. Report No. 601, Agricultural Economics Department, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, 2001.


For the Year 2001

Objective:
This research project develops and tests Web-based methods for valuing wetland ecosystem characteristics and services. Wetland ecosystems provide non-market services, including habitat services. The value of these services may be measured using non-market valuation methods. Previous research shows that these non-market values are economically significant relative to other wetland values. However, previous results have been criticized for placing too much emphasis on the question of "What is the value?" and not enough emphasis on "What it is that people value?" The objective of the research is to examine what it is that people value regarding wetlands ecosystems. A Web-based, stated preference questionnaire was developed and used to elicit respondents' evaluations of wetlands with different types of services and characteristics. The relative value of the different services and characteristics are estimated using the elicited evaluations.

Progress Summary:

Research during the year 2000, developed a theory of ecosystem valuation and applied it to the problem of wetland protection and restoration. The year also included extensive qualitative research on the public's perceptions of wetland ecosystems and the words and concepts they use in considering human impacts on wetland ecosystems. The qualitative research identified wetland habitats, and the complex of services that habitat provides, as central to the perceptions and valuations of wetland ecosystems by members of the general public.

During 2001, the valuation theory and qualitative results of 2000 were used to draft stated preference questionnaire prototypes. The questionnaires were designed to elicit the pair-wise rankings of drained and restored wetlands. Reliable rankings required that the habitat services of each wetland be clearly communicated to respondents from the general public. This communication problem proved to be a major research hurdle, since wetland habitats are complex and multi-dimensional. The research used an interactive design and testing procedure to develop questionnaires that were readily understood and answered by respondents from the general public.

Questionnaires were refined and tested in an iterative process that began with three focus groups, was followed by a mix of focus groups and individual interviews, and ended with pretests with 60 respondents. Both the focus group and pretest participants were recruited through random digit dialing from the central Michigan population of households. To ensure that test participants represented a cross-section of the general public, the recruiting text asked telephone respondents to participate in a Citizens' Panel on critical issues, rather than asking respondents to participate in research on wetlands. The recruiting strategy appeared successful because the final sample had demographic characteristics very similar to those found in the 2000 Census of Population and Housing.

The development process ended with a paper version of the final questionnaire with seven sections: (1) a cover identifying the instrument as a "Michigan Citizens' Panel"; (2) rankings of critical public issues; (3) identification of a wetlands sub-panel; (4) respondents' wetland knowledge; (5) wetlands impacts and restoration; (6) stated preferences for drained and restored wetlands; and (7) demographic information.

In 2001, computer programmers were recruited and hired to convert the paper questionnaire in a Web-based interviewing panel. In addition, with non-U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funds, the paper version of the questionnaire was administered in a large-scale mail survey of Michigan residents. The mail survey data should provide a point of comparison for the Web-based instrument and sample.

Future Activities:

The next phase of research will finalize the Web-based questionnaire and implement through a large-scale sample of respondents. Once the working prototype is developed by the programmers, it will be tested with a small sample of respondents. Once debugged, it will be implemented with a large scale sample. Initial inquiries indicate that large-scale, state- or region-panels, are available at an acceptable cost through established survey sample firms. We are likely to use this approach in our final sample of respondents, though we may supplement the purchased sample with a combined telephone contact and internet sample approach.

Presentations:

Kaplowitz MD, Hoehn JP, Lupi F. Accounting for public perceptions and knowledge in the valuation of wetland functions. Presented at Urban Wetlands: Protecting and Enhancing the Resource, the Society of Wetland Scientists 22nd Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, May 31, 2001.

Hoehn JP, Kaplowitz MD, Lupi F. Experiments in valuing wetland ecosystems: unbundling a Lancasterian bundle. Presented at the United States Department of Agriculture Western Regional Project W-133: Benefits and Costs of Resource Policies, Miami, FL, February 23, 2001.

Hoehn JP, Kaplowitz MD, Lupi F. Incorporating people?s perceptions in wetland valuation. Paper presented at the 4th Annual Wetlands Regulatory Workshop, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Atlantic City, NJ, October 31, 2001.

Lupi F, Kaplowitz MD, Hoehn JP. Incorporating public perceptions and knowledge into economic valuation of Great Lake wetland ecosystems. Presented at the International Association of Great Lakes Research Meeting, Green Bay, WI, June 13, 2001.

Hoehn JP, Lupi F, Kaplowitz MD. Untying a lancastrian bundle: ecosystem valuation in wetland mitigation. Paper presented at the American Agricultural Economics Association Meeting, Chicago, IL, August 6, 2001.

Kaplowitz MD, Lupi F, Hoehn JP. Where's the water? Exploring (mis)perceptions and knowledge in economic valuation of wetland ecosystems. Presented at the United States Society of Ecological Economics Meeting, Duluth, MN, July 13, 2001.

Report:

Hoehn JP, Kaplowitz MD, Lupi F. Wetland uses and functions as perceived by mid-Michigan residents: qualitative research results. Technical Report Number 607. Michigan State University?East Lansing, Agricultural Economics Department, March 2001.

Project Reports:

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