Valuing net benefits of biodiversity conservation in West African marine protected areas

  • Thomas Binet

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Momentum behind the economic valuation of ecosystems, after a decade of hopeful support from researchers and policymakers, is currently petering out and decision-makers still do not consider biodiversity conservation to be a political priority. Surprisingly, the economic benefits provided by the conservation of ecosystems have been poorly investigated, unlike the ecosystems themselves. Furthermore, is the valuation of conservation (the valuation of the “interest rate” made on the natural capital saved, instead of the valuation of the natural capital itself) an efficient means to better serve decision-making? The research presented here addresses this question, in proposing a more effective approach to the valuation of conservation. It also investigates how such economic valuation exercises could best serve the decision-making process.
    The research method for measuring conservation value relies on a comparison of Total Economic Values for analogous ecosystems both within a protected area and in outside adjacent areas. This methodology is tested in a sample of five marine protected areas in West Africa. For the estimation of the Total Economic Values in these sites, the research has applied most of the available valuation tools and includes all values for which data are available, including non-use values.
    The results indicate a predominance of benefits linked to indirect use values over direct use values and non-use values. The marine protected areas display substantial benefits when compared to unprotected sites. These benefits are thought to derive primarily from the better marine health status associated with protected areas, and subsequent higher indirect use values which compensate for the decrease in direct use values caused by the conservation policy and the subsequent limitations imposed as a result. The ‘paper areas’ (i.e. those protected areas with no management plan) show, however, a deficit even when compared to unprotected sites.
    The research discusses and highlights the shortcomings of such an approach within the West African context (data-poor situation, non-monetised economies, value transfer to developing countries, difficulties in communicating non-use values of biodiversity) and associated time and space considerations. It also underlines the importance of considering the socio-cultural context in any economic valuation, which provides key information for valuation interpretation.
    Furthering the approach within the ‘economics of protection’ stream (after the ‘economics of degradation’ and the ‘economics of welfare’), this research delivers a new approach for valuing biodiversity conservation. The extensions of this research for policy purposes may include management support (comparison of conservation benefits with costs of management, increased consideration of indirect use values), advocacy information (through the calculation of the costs of policy inaction), and mechanisms for sustainable financing (through the development of payment for ecosystem services).
    Date of AwardFeb 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Portsmouth
    SupervisorAndy Thorpe (Supervisor) & Trond Bjorndal (Supervisor)

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