The Stability of Values for Ecosystem Services: Tools for Evaluating the Potential for Benefits Transfers

EPA Grant Number: R831597
Title: The Stability of Values for Ecosystem Services: Tools for Evaluating the Potential for Benefits Transfers
Investigators: Hoehn, John P. , Lupi, Frank , Kaplowitz, Michael D.
Institution: Michigan State University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: May 1, 2004 through April 30, 2007
Project Amount: $235,772
RFA: Valuation for Environmental Policy (2003) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice


The research develops empirical procedures for understanding what people in different regions value in terms of wetland ecosystem services. These procedures are used to test hypotheses regarding the prospects for successful benefit transfers. The research builds on extensive stated preference research conducted in Michigan and funded in part by an EPA STAR grant. That research used cognitive group and individual interviews to identify highly valued wetland ecosystem services, developed a web-based stated preference questionnaire, and tested how changes in ecosystem quality influenced respondents' choices and values. Similar methods were also used to complete a mail survey in Michigan using the same ecosystem choices. The proposed project leverages the previous Michigan research by testing its transferability and developing cost-effective tools for timely assessments of the potential for benefit transfer.


The five project objectives are to: (1) use focus groups to determine whether key wetland ecosystem service categories, that are highly valued by respondents, vary across regions of the United States; (2) use cognitive individual interviews to evaluate the effectiveness of the SP instrument for benefit transfer of values associated with wetland ecosystems; (3) implement a web-based stated choice experiment in selected regions to test transferability; (4) assess the effect of using regional, secondary data about resource scarcity, income and demographics on estimation of the benefits transfer equation; and (5) assess the influence of survey modes (mail, web) on marginal attribute values and within-region benefits transfer.


The research will collect data using qualitative and quantitative methods in three regions of the United States to test the extent of the market for benefit transfer of values for wetland ecosystem services. The data will be compared to the existing data in Michigan. The web-survey data will be used to estimate stated choice valuation models for each of the regions. Hypotheses regarding transferability of preference functions and marginal attribute values will be tested. The research will also test whether the conclusions regarding transferability derived from the qualitative research are consistent with the choice models derived from the web-survey data.

Expected Results:

The research will yield novel tools for evaluating the prospects of benefits transfer. Focus groups will be tested for their ability to identify highly valued ecosystem concepts. Cognitive interviews will be demonstrated as a tool for assessing the inter-regional transferability of stated choice instruments. The quantitative research will yield wetland ecosystem values for 4 regions of the United States, with the potential to yield a national benefit transfer function.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 4 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

random utility, nonmarket valuation, wetland mitigation., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, State, Economics, decision-making, Ecology and Ecosystems, Economics & Decision Making, Social Science, policy analysis, surveys, deliberative policy, decision analysis, web-based methods, environmental values, environmental policy, aquatic ecosystems, public values, public policy, stated preference, wetlands preservation, economic tradeoffs, econometric analysis

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2004 Progress Report
  • 2005
  • Final