Social preferences and willingness-to-pay for forest ecosystem services : implications for payments for ecosystem services schemes
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Progressively, there has been a substantial shift in emphasis with regards to forest governance and management. Forests management policies are directed toward conserving biodiversity and maintaining ecosystem services rather than the traditional approach of maximizing and sustaining yield. PES has therefore become an essential tool for achieving the new trend of managing forests for ecosystem services. Fundamental to any PES initiative, is the understanding of perceived economic values of services provided by forest ecosystems. Economic values of ecosystem services provide information on public demand for these services which serve as baseline information for designing PES programs. Notwithstanding, information on public perceptions and attitudes toward PES is still limited. The objective of this research was to better understand how environmental attitudes, beliefs, value orientations and preferences for ecosystem attributes affect willingness-to-pay (WTP) for forested watershed ecosystem services under PES programs. Survey data from 1002 individual U.S. residents were analyzed. The results revealed a relatively stronger predictive power of attitudinal variables on WTP than socio-demographic variables. The findings provided evidence of heterogeneity in individual preferences for different ecosystem services provided by forested watersheds. Increase water quality and improvement in habitat for threatened plant and animal species were found to be the highly preferred and valued ecosystem services among four ecosystem services assessed (water quality, flood control, landscape beauty and habitat for threatened plant and animal species). On average U.S. households were willing to pay between US$ 43.92 - 77.16 and 50.16 - 77.16 per year for five years for water quality and habitat improvement services respectively at a local residence level. The study further showed that U.S. households could be willing to participate in a PES program and pay on average, between US$116.82 to 123.21 per year in income tax to restore a distant degraded forested watershed in the U.S. and between US$ 137.14 to 148.39 for a distant tropical forested watershed outside the U.S. for improved ecosystem services. The findings of this study offer useful baseline information that can inform policy decisions on design and implementation of forested watershed PES programs.
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