Is economic valuation of ecosystem services useful to decision-makers? Lessons learned from Australian coastal and marine management
Economic valuation of ecosystem services is widely advocated as being useful to support ecosystem management decision-making. However, the extent to which it is actually used or considered useful in decision-making is poorly documented. This literature blindspot is explored with an application to coastal and marine ecosystems management in Australia. Based on a nation-wide survey of eighty-eight decision-makers representing a diversity of management organizations, the perceived usefulness and level of use of economic valuation of ecosystem services, in support of coastal and marine management, are examined. A large majority of decision-makers are found to be familiar with economic valuation and consider it useful - even necessary – in decision-making, although this varies across groups of decision-makers. However, most decision-makers never or rarely use economic valuation. The perceived level of importance and trust in estimated dollar values differ across ecosystem services, and are especially high for values that relate to commercial activities. A number of factors are also found to influence respondent's use of economic valuation. Such findings concur with conclusions from other studies on the usefulness and use of ESV in environmental management decision-making. They also demonstrate the strength of the survey-based approach developed in this application to examine this issue in a variety of contexts.