2000 Progress Report: Web-Based Methods for Valuing Wetland ServicesEPA Grant Number: R827922
Title: Web-Based Methods for Valuing Wetland Services
Investigators: Hoehn, John P. , Lupi, Frank , Kaplowitz, Michael D.
Institution: Michigan State University
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: October 1, 1999 through September 30, 2002 (Extended to November 30, 2003)
Project Period Covered by this Report: October 1, 1999 through September 30, 2000
Project Amount: $227,758
RFA: Decision-Making and Valuation for Environmental Policy (1999) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice
The project develops and tests web-based methods for valuing wetland ecosystem characteristics and services. Previous research shows that nonmarket services, including habitat services, are associated with wetland ecosystems. The value of these services may be measured using nonmarket valuation methods. Previous research shows that these nonmarket values are economically significant relative to other wetland values; however, previous results have been criticized for placing too much emphasis on the question of "What is the value?" and not enough emphasis on "What it is that people value?" The objective of the research is to examine what it is that people value regarding wetlands ecosystems. A Web-based, stated preference questionnaire will be developed and used to elicit respondents' evaluations of wetlands with different types of services and characteristics. The relative value of the different services and characteristics will be estimated using the elicited evaluations.
The research effort currently is in the initial qualitative research phase of the project. The qualitative research is helping us learn "what" people value about wetland ecosystems. This step will be used to help the researchers determine the functions and services that should be the focus of the valuation effort.
A series of focus groups were conducted to elicit Michigan residents'
knowledge of wetland ecosystems. Participants demonstrated better than expected
general knowledge of wetland ecosystems, but their detailed knowledge of wetland
functions and services was uneven. More specifically, discussion participants
recognized habitat for plants and animals as a key wetland function. A smaller
portion identified maintenance of water quality and water storage as important
wetland functions. Misperceptions also were revealed. For example, several
respondents thought that trees do not grow in wetlands and that wetlands kill
trees despite the fact that wooded wetlands are common in Michigan.
Qualitative work will continue into the next phase of the project to help the researchers learn what it is about wetlands, wetland services, and wetland characteristics that matter to people. Survey and questionnaire development are ongoing. In addition to further clarify respondents' baseline knowledge and language, upcoming focus groups will be used to evaluate the elements of a stated preference Web-based survey questionnaire. These elements will include diagrams, pictures, and other information treatments to convey changes in wetland services. Based on the information learned in the focus groups as well as in interviews with wetland scientists, a prototype Web-based questionnaire is being developed.
The draft instrument will be pretested using one-on-one interviews. Specially trained interviewers will oversee the administration of the draft instruments to respondents selected from the target audience. The interviewers will collect feedback and other information about the Web-based survey instruments and the subject matter. Based upon the information learned during pretests, the draft instrument will be modified. It is expected that the qualitative data gathered will provide a basis for understanding how individuals make trade-offs between wetland characteristics. This process will yield the Web-based survey instrument, which is anticipated by the end of Year 2. The Web-based survey will provide a basis for understanding how individuals make trade-offs between wetland characteristics.