Use of coastal economic valuation in decision making in the Caribbean: Enabling conditions and lessons learned
Caribbean economies depend on coastal ecosystem services, including tourism, fisheries, and shoreline protection. However, coastal ecosystems continue to degrade due to human pressures. Many pressures arise from decisions that fail to take full range of ecosystem values and benefits into account.
Economic valuation can contribute to better-informed decision making about coastal resource use and development. More than 100 studies in the Caribbean contain monetary values of coastal ecosystem goods and services. However, only a minority of these studies have had an observable influence on policy, management, or investment decisions. Through a series of interviews, we identified 17 valuation studies that have directly influenced decision making. Due to the difficulty of tracking influence, our review was not exhaustive.
These 17 “success stories” highlight the potential for economic valuation to improve decision making. Building on literature on the challenges of integrating science into policy, we used these 17 cases to identify enabling conditions for informing decision making. These conditions include a clear policy question, strategic choice of study area, strong stakeholder engagement, effective communications, access to decision makers, and transparency in reporting results.
Our findings suggest that valuation practitioners can and should do more to ensure that valuation studies inform decision making.