The use of contingent valuation for evaluating protected areas in the developing world: Economic valuation of Morro do Diabo State Park, Atlantic Rainforest, São Paulo State (Brazil)
The Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest is internationally recognised as one of the most biodiverse and threatened tropical forests in the world [Myers, N., Mittermeier, R.A., Mittermeier, C.G., da Fonseca, G.A.B., Kent, J., 2000. Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403, 853-858]. The Seasonal Semi-Deciduous Forest is among the most fragmented and threatened biomes of the Atlantic Rainforest Domain. The largest remnant of this biome (35,000 ha) is protected by the Morro do Diabo State Park (MDSP), situated in the area known as the Pontal do Paranapanema, in São Paulo State, Brazil. Despite its environmental importance, the park is under political, economic and demographic pressure. The main aim of our research was to estimate the population's willingness to pay (WTP) for the conservation of MDSP and for the Atlantic Rainforest's remnants in São Paulo State as a whole, by means of the contingent valuation method (CVM). The results featured a high incidence of null WTP and of protest votes. Nevertheless, the population is willing to pay US$ 2,113,548.00/year (R$ 7,080,385.00/year) for the conservation of the MDSP (use and existence values), or US$ 60.39 ha/year (R$ 202.30/ha/year). The results indicate that the preservation value is strongly associated to the population's ability to pay, increasing with income levels. Qualitative research questions showed that the population considers protected areas to be very important. Still, the valuation of MDSP revealed a gap between the government budget allotted to the park and the value assigned to the area by the public.
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