2001 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, 2000 through September 30, 2001
Project Amount: $227,758
RFA: Decision-Making and Valuation for Environmental Policy (1999) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice
This research project develops and tests Web-based methods for valuing wetland ecosystem characteristics and services. Wetland ecosystems provide non-market services, including habitat services. The value of these services may be measured using non-market valuation methods. Previous research shows that these non-market 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 was 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 are estimated using the elicited evaluations.
Research during the year 2000, developed a theory of ecosystem valuation and applied it to the problem of wetland protection and restoration. The year also included extensive qualitative research on the public's perceptions of wetland ecosystems and the words and concepts they use in considering human impacts on wetland ecosystems. The qualitative research identified wetland habitats, and the complex of services that habitat provides, as central to the perceptions and valuations of wetland ecosystems by members of the general public.
During 2001, the valuation theory and qualitative results of 2000 were used to draft stated preference questionnaire prototypes. The questionnaires were designed to elicit the pair-wise rankings of drained and restored wetlands. Reliable rankings required that the habitat services of each wetland be clearly communicated to respondents from the general public. This communication problem proved to be a major research hurdle, since wetland habitats are complex and multi-dimensional. The research used an interactive design and testing procedure to develop questionnaires that were readily understood and answered by respondents from the general public.
Questionnaires were refined and tested in an iterative process that began with three focus groups, was followed by a mix of focus groups and individual interviews, and ended with pretests with 60 respondents. Both the focus group and pretest participants were recruited through random digit dialing from the central Michigan population of households. To ensure that test participants represented a cross-section of the general public, the recruiting text asked telephone respondents to participate in a Citizens' Panel on critical issues, rather than asking respondents to participate in research on wetlands. The recruiting strategy appeared successful because the final sample had demographic characteristics very similar to those found in the 2000 Census of Population and Housing.
The development process ended with a paper version of the final questionnaire with seven sections: (1) a cover identifying the instrument as a "Michigan Citizens' Panel"; (2) rankings of critical public issues; (3) identification of a wetlands sub-panel; (4) respondents' wetland knowledge; (5) wetlands impacts and restoration; (6) stated preferences for drained and restored wetlands; and (7) demographic information.
In 2001, computer programmers were recruited and hired to convert the paper questionnaire in a Web-based interviewing panel. In addition, with non-U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funds, the paper version of the questionnaire was administered in a large-scale mail survey of Michigan residents. The mail survey data should provide a point of comparison for the Web-based instrument and sample.
The next phase of research will finalize the Web-based questionnaire and implement through a large-scale sample of respondents. Once the working prototype is developed by the programmers, it will be tested with a small sample of respondents. Once debugged, it will be implemented with a large scale sample. Initial inquiries indicate that large-scale, state- or region-panels, are available at an acceptable cost through established survey sample firms. We are likely to use this approach in our final sample of respondents, though we may supplement the purchased sample with a combined telephone contact and internet sample approach.