Understanding the distribution of economic benefits from improving coastal and marine ecosystems
The ecological status of coastal and marine waterbodies world-wide is threatened by multiple stressors, including nutrient inputs from various sources and increasing occurrences of invasive alien species. These stressors impact the environmental quality of the Baltic Sea. Each Baltic Sea country contributes to the stressors and, at the same time, is affected by their negative impacts on water quality. Knowledge about benefits from improvements in coastal and marine waters is key to assessing public support for policies aimed at achieving such changes. We propose a new approach to account for variability in benefits related to differences in socio-demographics of respondents, by using a structural model of discrete choice. Our method allows to incorporate a wide range of socio-demographics as explanatory variables in conditional multinomial logit models without the risk of collinearity; the model is estimated jointly and hence more statistically efficient than the alternative, typically used approaches. We apply this new technique to a study of the preferences of Latvian citizens towards improvements of the coastal and marine environment quality. We find that overall, Latvians are willing to pay for reducing losses of biodiversity, for improving water quality for recreation by reduced eutrophication, and for reducing new occurrences of invasive alien species. However a significant group within the sample seems not to value environmental improvements in the Baltic Sea, and, thus, is unwilling to support costly measures for achieving such improvements. The structural model of discrete choice reveals substantial heterogeneity among Latvians towards changes in the quality of coastal and marine waters of Latvia.