Economic valuation of species loss in the open sea
Although the oceans cover 70% of the surface of the planet few studies have considered the economic valuation of marine biodiversity, despite the importance of such information for marine management and conservation. This study uses a contingent valuation method to estimate the public's willingness to pay (WTP) to avoid loss in the number of marine species in the waters around the Azores archipelago. We estimated the marginal value associated with increased levels of species loss (10% and 25%) in five marine taxa (mammals, fish, algae, birds and invertebrates) and all marine species considered as a whole, via a face to face survey of residents and visitors to two Azorean islands. The results suggest small but statistically significant differences in the WTP to prevent losses in the different taxa (mammalsÂ =Â fishÂ >Â birdsÂ =Â invertebratesÂ =Â algae). The results also suggest a greater WTP to preserve all marine taxa as a whole, than for a series of individual marine taxa. The valuation of the ecosystem and taxa may be influenced by the maritime culture of the respondents, but despite this, the findings challenge the commonly held premise that charismatic taxa have a disproportionately strong influence on WTP, and they provide important insights into human preferences for biodiversity conservation.
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