Valuing the ecosystem service benefits from kelp forest restoration: A choice experiment from Norway
Habitat loss and degradation are recognised as the most important causes of species decline and extinction in marine ecosystems. It is also widely recognised that a range of restoration actions are now essential to halt further decline. From a policy perspective, demonstration that restoration activity is in the interest of society is an important goal. In this paper, the welfare impacts of restoring Norwegian kelp forests to areas where they once were dominant but which now lie barren are estimated using the discrete choice modelling approach. The paper also examines if more direct contact with the environmental good under investigation influences respondents' willingness to pay to restore ecosystem features. The results indicate a positive and significant marginal societal willingness to pay for the ecosystem services associated with kelp forest restoration. The enhanced biodiversity levels as a result of the restoration activity are the most highly valued by the Norwegian public although the size of the area restored is more highly valued by respondents who are active marine environment users. It is argued that without incorporating these non-market values into the decision making process marine policy decisions may be made that are not in fact in the best interest of society.