Topics on the ecological economics of coastal zones
This thesis attempts to integrate ecology and economics into a basis for public decision making concerning environmental resources and problems in coastal zones. It consists of an introduction and four papers that can be read independently of each other. The applications relate to economic valuation of environmental changes, incentives to wetland construction as a means to mitigate eutrophication in the presence of uncertainty and different information structures, and the use of ecological data on habitat structure and fish populations to show the economic importance of coastal habitats in supporting fisheries. Paper I attempts to economically value changes in shallow soft bottoms along the west coast of Sweden in terms of their impact on plaice fisheries in Kattegat and Skagerrak. The study presents a bioeconomic dynamic model that links the quality of the habitat to changes in the plaice population and connects fish recruitment with fisheries profits over time, suggesting a shadow price for plaice nursery grounds. Paper II shows, through a statistical analysis of the results of a survey applied to eel fishermen on the west coast of Sweden, that habitat loss has a significantly negative effect on eel catches. Paper III discusses the issue of how uncertainty affects the decision of a landowner to convert agriculturally productive land into wetlands and shows that, even though land conversion might result from a risk averse farmer trying to diversify her investment options, the possibility of receiving more information in the future leads to either a delay in the farmer's decision to restore wetlands or to the requirement of a higher subsidy for the decision to be made, even when it is not irreversible. Public policies to encourage wetland construction should take these aspects into consideration. Paper IV presents an interdisciplinary approach where ecological data on habitat structure and fish populations are combined with results from economic valuation case studies to assess and describe effects of habitat disturbance on the Swedish west coast. The results have important implications for coastal zone management, since they show both ecologically and economically how coastal habitats support fisheries.
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