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Matt Hedberg

This article brings up a great point in discussing the “free” services provided by natural systems. I thought this experiment was an interesting and relatively easy way to address the discrepancies between the real economic values of coral reefs and their biodiversity. Using non-market valuation techniques such as the ones used in this article, scientists should be able to assign a relative value to important habitats all over the world. Those that would be identified and chosen for valuation would most likely align with those that are identified as important to preserve by Krutilla; they would be unique, irreplaceable, and/or irreversible, such as a coral reef.

Keeping the process in mind, I think this valuation method would be useful in many other places. My only problem with it is the sample size it takes into account. In this example, they weren’t incredibly diverse. Most participants were wealthy and all were there to see a diverse group of fish, not eat them. Would the preferences of a poor, hungry islander be the same as those of the divers questioned in the experiment? I doubt it. How could we incorporate the needs and preferences of every stakeholder in the valuation of such an ecosystem?

Additionally, I think this practice should be utilized at every national park. Entrance fees are incredibly low, allowing many tourists to see their natural beauty, but ruin it at the same time for others. What would preferences be for a place such as Yosemite? I wonder how much a ticket would go for if only a few thousand people were let into the park per year. Although it a park such as Yosemite may not produce tangible resources like the fish or coral of a reef, it still provides humans with “free” services. How much are they worth?

Sarah Michalik

This week's chapter from Kahn discussed the biases that can occur through various methods of assigning market prices to non-market items. Many of these biases occurred when a stated preference method was utilized. When I first began reading the methods of this experiment, I saw the use of a survey and thought that the results would be inaccurate due to the biases discussed by Kahn. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the researchers switch rather quickly to a conjoint analysis approach. I believe that a conjoint analysis approach is the most accurate tool currently available to conduct this kind of research. Furthermore, the researchers analyzed many variables beyond those that they were most interested in studying. Therefore, I believe this study was fairly unaffected by biases.

Nina Preston

My experience with Casey et al. paper was similarly plagued with questions like those which Matt contributed above. I am concerned with the absence of “empirical justification” available to political leadership and regulatory authorities. How is the knowledge gap between coastal managers and policy makers so significant in countries that exploit their natural resources for ecotourism? Especially in nations, such as Caribbean island nations, who are dependent on tourism for a large percent of their GDP? In Barbados alone, tourism accounts for 15% of GDP and even greater amounts through construction and service sectors (30). As a result of my bias as an Environmental Studies major I responded to this article with shock when it mentioned how non-market values were not influencing policy. I ask: Is it because policy makers are more comfortable with facts and concrete data that illustrate the immediate returns of consuming a good/service? Is the dependence on tangible data sets inhibiting our ability to grow economically through conservation practices? Social well-being is also threatened when natural capital is depleted, and the cost of reconstruction is greater than the immediate cost of preservation.
Matt made a good point to mention how the poverty stricken local communities are affected by preferences elected by people willing and able to pay for the consumption of a good. This article mentions how poverty is exacerbated by resource depletion in local communities, so how could we account for their loss in the price of SUBA dive experiences? Professor Casey mentioned in class that the movement towards ecotourism must include those who previously depended on the depletion of that resource in order to compensate their loss and maintain regulations for preservation. For example, exotic fishermen must be the ones converting their market interest towards dive lessons, gear renting, or tour guides, etc. Ideally, no value would be lost thorough the improved quality of the reefs and there would be a renewed social stigma towards ecological stewardship.

Philip Anderson

The study attempts to allay the inconsistency issues involved with the costs and benefits of natural resource preservation. Being able to get a better sense of the current benefits of ecotourism can help alleviate the time imbalance of value. Because, in terms of preservation, ecotourism is better than a lot of alternatives. The study finds empirically that divers value seeing more sea turtles. By quantifying this added value of sea turtles and including this value into the market price of diving in the Barbados (or subsidizing the providers of ecotourism) it could help create incentives to reduce turtle exploitation. By better understanding how much tourists are willing to pay, and creating prices closer to the WTP levels, we can create greater short term economic incentives for natural resource preservation. Price discrimination has many negative connotations, and for many markets its not optimal. However for a market such as ecotourism, where the price of the activity consistently doesn't take into account a large amount of consumer surplus, implementing some sort of price discrimination could be interesting. To do this, it is necessary to quantify the non-market benefits of ecotourism.

Megan Axelrod

The article showcases a creative way to assign value to non market goods. The 165 divers surveyed demonstrated high willingness to pay for lower levels of site crowding along with higher levels of coral quality, fish species diversity and sightings of sea turtles. While tourists are an interesting way to value resources for this particular study the question becomes how might an ecologist’s answer on the survey differ from that of a diver? For example, sea turtle conservation has many implications for ecosystems far beyond what the divers enjoy from viewing a sea turtle. Diver satisfaction and health of marine life might be incompatible measures and it would be interesting to compare survey results from a different population source.

Additionally as a politics major I am curious about the structure of government in Barbados. My experience with politics in America would suggest that politicians make decisions based on what will make their constituents happiest, and lead to the greatest odds of reelection. This preconceived notion could differ based on an alternate form of government. In America a significant amount of policy decisions are made off of what will best protect the economy. In Barbados, given the high level of GDP that the article attributes to healthy reefs it seems logical to conclude that policy makers should put a high premium on protecting the reefs.

Ale Paniagua

I agree with Matt in the sense that the methodology used was very simple yet effective an could be used to conduct studies in other areas to evaluate to try to assign a value to various characteristics. I also agree that the sample size might be a little biased. What do locals think of these values? Do they care solely because of the income biodiversity and turtles bring or do these attributes have an intrinsic value for the population. If so what it it and should this value be given more weight than the value attributed by a tourist? Being from Costa Rica I understand how a country can depend on tourism and how valuable attributes like biodiversity can be only because of the tourism it will attract. Apart form that I know people (especially in close communities) can actually value these attributes due to cultural and historial ties rather than the money it brings through truism. Therefore if locals and tourists value the same attributes for different reasons, then can we assign different monetary values to the same attributes? Also how can sharing with locals the monetary price that reflects how they value these attributes change how they see these attributes and how they might act in the future? Can knowing how much you value an attribute change future policy, people's behaviour and ultimately the value of the attribute itself?

Andy Roberts

The research and modeling conducted by Casey et al provided an interesting method for ascribing monetary value to environmental resources. The results displaying a preference for lower levels of site crowding and higher levels of coral quality do not come as a huge surprise. That being said, these unsurprising preferences could easily be applied to many other forms of recreational activity. Overall, I believe that the placement of a premium on activities in ecologically sensitive areas is a good idea. Just as Matt stated in his post, many environmental resources have relatively low admittance costs when compared with the benefits derived from these goods and services.

Following the argument made by Krutilla in the previous passage, if facilities are made available for a particular activity, participation and demand for that activity will increase. By placing premiums on diving activities the hope would be that coral quality will rebound. This would cause a positive feedback loop in which an increasingly valuable environmental resource is sought by an increasing demand by technically skilled divers of future generations. Following this thought, would you then need to apply this NMV to snorkeling as well? For the sake of Krutilla's argument it almost seems as though you would not want to place a greater monetary burden on low skill snorkelers/divers for if they are not willing to pay then future generations of skilled divers may be decreased.

Jerry Qiu

This paper is investigates an interesting topic, that is, to measure the “price” of marine diversity in Barbados through finding the foreign scuba divers’ willingness to pay for environmental improvements. The research is well defined and the results in Table 5 are all quite statistically significant. However I do have a few comments on the methodology of this research.
First, since Barbados rely heavily on tourism, the size of the data based on the given time span (165 divers in between July 2007 and April 2009) is a bit small. That could be a problem for the regression as it might not reflect the true relationship among variables. Second, the design of the surveys could also results in poor data quality. This research uses a 5-page survey, which I think is on the edge of being too long. Over-long and repetitive surveys usually perform poorly and it is difficult to avoid straight-lining and other undesirable behaviors.
For further researches, this paper is based on a somewhat high price for diving (mean: 105.6) so I wonder what the result would be in a country that is cheaper to scuba dive, such as the Philippines (less than $20 for a tank with boat dives), Thailand, or Honduras?

Xiaoxiang Yang

This paper is very interesting in the way that it uses the non-market valuation techniques to study the monetary value of marine biodiversity, especially the coverage of coral reef and the existence of sea turtles, to scuba divers in Barbados. However, I do have several questions regarding the methods used in this research. First of all, as mentioned by Jerry above, a group of 165 wealthy scuba divers who came from US and UK can potentially be a very biased sample that is also very small. Since as shown in the paper, the utility derived by individuals has both a deterministic value and a random component, this small sample size makes the quality of the results shown in this paper very debatable. Besides that, researchers only assess the monetary values of these different objects through surveys instead of also carrying out corresponding programs. As most people probably already realize, people's actual behaviors tend to be different from the ones they indicate on survey or in interviews. Therefore, whether or not these surveys reflect the true values of the biodiversity in those scuba divers' mind is not certain. At last, near the end of the paper authors also suggest to use the 'payment for environmental services' PES scheme to compensate fishermen for protecting marine biodiversity. However, how difficulty it is to carry this program out, and how effective it will be in real life are also very interesting questions that are worth further investigation.

Rachana Ghimire

The paper “Recreational SCUBA divers’ willingness to pay for marine biodiversity in Barbados” explores the topic of putting a value on something that is not necessarily a market good. I thought it was interesting that they placed a price on biodiversity by asking scuba divers to take a survey and then using that to infer how valuable they think corals are. There may be some level of bias in this type of study as scuba divers may value corals more than the general public, so it would not be safe to assume this is true for everyone, but I think it brings us closer to the real estimate of how much people value marine biodiversity in Barbados. I do agree though that this is mainly focused on tourists so it does not paint an accurate picture of how much the native people in Barbados value marine biodiversity, which I think would be important to explore as well. Though there are problems with survey type experiments, I think it still aids in policy making decisions which is exactly what the paper suggests. The paper at the end states “that conservation is good economic policy” from all the evidence they gathered from the surveys, and I think using more studies like this one would be a powerful tool in getting environmental regulations passed. Often times, people get many benefits from conservation without paying any price and showing evidence that the general public values conservation would aid in policy making decisions to resolve this issue.

HeeJu Jang

Megan brings a great point about how politics can often hinder the efficient allocation of resources. As she assumes, it may seem logical that countries like Barbados whose GDP heavily depend on marine biodiversity will prioritize the protection of reefs. However, my experience at Belize tells me otherwise. Our research there also finds that tourists are willing to pay substantially more than what they currently pay for coral reef fund in Belize. (I forgot how much it was exactly, but a very small portion of air ticket to Belize goes directly toward the fund). However, the Belizean government itself refuses to raise the fee, fearing that such an increase will it unappealing among tourists to come visit Belize. This story, I believe, shows yet another example of the conflict between economic facts and decision making process.

caroline hutchinson

This journal article entitled, "Recreational SCUBA divers' willingness to pay for marine biodiversity in Barbados" calls attention to the difficult but necessary matter of quantifying in monetary terms the recreational value of various environments and natural resources. Policy makers often have to make decisions that would either conserve these natural resources or allow developers etc to use the land and resources for other purpose. The coral reefs of Barbados are just one example of this occurrence and the author of this article recommends the same process for others who are interested in quantifying the recreational value of other areas as well. The study began with a survey that asked the divers what they valued in a diving location. The mentions of sea turtles and large coral cover were frequently stated. Thus its clear that skilled divers place higher value on areas which are better conserved making these areas worth more money. This study would be incredibly useful for policy majors especially because they would be able to argue that these areas of extreme biodiversity and unique natural resources have a value that is associated with their aesthetics and conservation and not just for whatever harvestable resources they might also house.

caroline hutchinson

policy makers*

Bobby DeStefano

This journal article, as many of my classmates have said, attempts ‘monetize’ the benefits of reefs surrounding Barbados, a non-market goods. It highlights the difficulty of trying to put a price on conservation. A statement that helps explain this point and that I found interesting is; “One of the challenges is that many of the benefits of conservation only occur in the future, so that there is a short-term imbalance between costs of conservation and the immediate gains from activities that deplete and/or degrade the environment.” The fact is that it is hard to convince people to spend money on something that they do not directly own. This idea stems from last weeks article, “The Tragedy of the Commons.” On another point, I agree with Matt and others about their concerns about the lack of diversity in those surveyed and how it may have caused bias in the results.

Charlotte Keesler

This article uses a stated preference survey as a non-market valuation technique in an effort to quantify the economic value of marine biodiversity in Barbados. The first aspect of the article that stood out to me as being an issue, is that the subjects were surveyed in dive shops. This meant to me that the population of people that these results could be generalized to is fairly small, and specifically constrained to SCUBA divers in Barbados. This being said, the authors do a fantastic job of circumventing this issue, through proposing a policy that applies only to this population and their preferences. The policy proposition of simply increasing the prices of the dives, which the subjects said they would be willing to pay, addresses this subsection directly and does not include non-divers who may have different levels of wilingness to pay. The extra money collected from the dives could then be allocated towards preserving different aspects that the divers said they valued, such as turtles and fish diversity. This is an extremely efficient solution and caters to differences in preferences between groups of people within Barbados.

Katherine Hodges

While I think this research is of interest to policy makers, I think the scope of the research is incredibly limited. Surveying scuba divers is a very limited population. First, scuba diving is one of the more expensive recreational hobbies. It is costly in terms of transportation, certification, equipment, and more. In addition, the hobby revolves around experience the underwater world. I think that scuba divers have a different method of valuing the underwater environment. For example, experiencing coral and marine biodiversity needs to be enough to offset the other costs associated with diving. While the research took into account some of the costs, the price of a 2-tank dive, it doesn't take into account the (most likely) demographic difference in valuation of the dives. I think an area for further research could include a different population of respondents. While scuba is a source of tourism, there are others. As mentioned in the paper, snorkeling, glass-bottomed boat viewing, etc. also exist for recreation. I would like to see a comparison in MWTP for these resources from other recreational activity populations.

Ram Raval

Personally, I found this journal article fascinating simply due to its premise. When thinking about coral reefs, one typically views them as valuable in terms of the ecosystem of oceans; however, I would not have considered their value in terms of scuba diving revenue, especially in locations in which this revenue is a key component of the area's economy. Perhaps the most surprising part of the background research of the article was the projections for the losses incurred by reef degradation. While it is certain that large economic effects occur, I was unaware of the magnitude, and I would be curious to read the studies which aim to monetize harm to reef-associated fisheries and sand production.

In regards to the potential biases brought up by Matt and others due to the limited, wealthy sample, I am torn. On one hand, I acknowledge that these divers are much more willing to spend larger amounts of money for better quality diving. In this regard, it would be helpful to replicate the study in a more accessible diving location with a less wealthy sample. At the same time, though, diving is inherently a rather expensive hobby, and those who engage in it are likely to be wealthy regardless. Due to this, I do not think it would the bias is too significant. In response to those criticizing the article's neglect for valuation of the reefs to local islanders, I do believe that such a valuation ought to be done, but I also argue that such effects were not the primary goal of this study. While the preferences are different for different individuals, the preferences themselves are not the focus of the study; instead, the preferences are only found in order to value different aspects of the reef ecosystem. A compilation of these preferences from different demographic groups would provide an adequate valuation of the reef ecosystem.

Another aspect of the study I found interesting was the amount of value placed on the mere sighting of a sea-turtle. I think that this is a valuable finding of the study in regards to sea turtle conservation. All in all, I found that the methods used in this study to provide valuation of non-marketable goods were creative and as accurate as the methodology can get. It is always interesting to consider how closely this methodology does reflect reality, but finding this information out is nearly impossible. Regardless, it is a great step in influencing policy in hopes of effecting change.


I would like to comment on two critiques that were raised in several posts. The first is that the results are biased, because of the small sample. The second is that the monetary value is not realistic, as it only based on divers. Locals and so on do not influence the result.

I do not agree that these missing influences decrease the significance of the paper. The fact that only divers influence the result is actually very important for the statement of the paper.

In the introduction the authors mention that it is a big problem that the policy makers do not know the value of future payments. The trade off can be biased towards a policy that does not conserve the environment. By giving politicians a concrete price consumers are willing to pay, arguments for securing natural sides can get very convincing.

A good is always sold to the person with the highest willingness to pay. This number in this case equals to the possible future payoff, that could be achieved through environment policies. Including locals into the survey would only bias this number.

In addition I find it very convincing that the data was not only collected during one season. The condition of a special season could bias the willingness of the divers to pay.

Mary Frances White

I'm curious as to what the common response would be including people are not seasoned divers and people that are moderately seasoned divers. Also, I think something else interesting mentioned in the study was the difference in long term and short term benefit within the context of the environment. I see it as a major problem in the general populations' understanding of environmental issues and conservation. This day in age we are focused on the short term and as a consequence we disregard the long term impacts these actions will have.

Zebrina Maloy

One of the most fascinating and thought-provoking points that the paper made was how the economic value of some environments haven’t been determined yet in various areas around the world. This, in turn, has formed an inherent knowledge gap for the native people, tourists, managers and, most importantly, policy makers. I feel like some assume that people in other countries—and even the United States—don’t care about the environment that surrounds them. However, this disregard for the environment can be attributed to the fact that many do not know the true value of these areas or the vast amount of support that the environment provides to other ecosystems and organisms. The paper states that this lack of knowledge stems from the fact that there has been no attempt to determine the economic value of these environments through non-market techniques. One of the examples that is provided is about the reefs in Barbados. Although some people realize the importance of these reefs to both the environment and tourism, coastal managers and policy makers are not completely aware of the reef’s economic value. These points and examples make me think that there needs to be a stronger emphasis on the determination of the economic value of environments. Subsequently, this value needs to be stressed to people—especially, those in power—to better educate them so that people can begin to fully realize how the environment is key to humans’ well being and the health of the organisms that rely on these environments.

Danielle Hurley

Though I'm sure individuals' WTP for fish diversity, coral cover, and turtle sightings has more to do with individual satisfaction and less to do with existence value, I like to think that because these attributes are in fact high on individuals' lists for a optimally satisfying dive that perhaps they might recognize the existence value. In any case, I found the study's results interesting and hopeful nonetheless. It reminded me of last spring term when Heeju returned from Belize and told me about her experience and the research she helped with. It sounded great. As she mentioned in her comment, her time in Belize found that tourists are Willing to pay more than what they currently do to support coral reefs. I wonder if this would be true for fish or for turtles and if tourists would willingly and knowingly pay either via a portion of their ticket price or some other way to support these species. What about non-divers? Would they be just as willing? I'm now interested to know whether tourists, in general, would be -honestly- willing to pay to support funds for fish, turtles, corals, etc. even if they weren't planning on SCUBA diving or guaranteed a siting or any sort. Could they still find satisfaction in this?

Jeb Bland

I find it interesting the way the author(s) discuss the monetary value of certain benefits of coral reefs and their inhabitants. For example, as diving instructors indicate, sea turtles are valuable because people love to encounter them on scuba trips. Their benefits extend beyond just their aesthetic value, however, they also help prevent disease and mediate sponge-coral interactions, which can be harmful to coral reefs. How does one place a value on that? More importantly, if policy makers choose to enact a policy of sea turtle conservation (in areas where harvesting turtle is still legal) what are the economic ramifications? Perhaps even more importantly, how do the policy makers justify these seemingly immeasurable, long term benefits against these very quantifiable short term losses? These are some of the questions that the authors raise and that I find very interesting.

Gabriella Kitch

Although I agree with many that placing a monetary value on the benefit SCUBA divers gain from diving in Barbados is an interesting point, in my opinion the most intriguing point is made in the conclusion of the paper. The authors then state that it may be possible for the economic gains of conservation to motivate growing conservation efforts. Although it seems plausible that ecotourism will motivate more people to learn about those ecosystems they are able to experience and therefore cause them to be more keen on preserving them, in what ways are these individuals going to be able to preserve them? Say for instance, someone from Texas went SCUBA diving in Barbados and fell in love with sea turtles, how are they going to be able to further prevent the destruction of their habitat? I'm sure they could encourage all of their friends to go dive in Barbados, or sponsor a turtle through a conservancy program, but will this ultimately conserve the sea turtles? The sea turtles habitat, the coral reef, is diminishing due to ocean acidification and an increase of ocean temperatures resulting in coral bleaching. This is a result of a global impact on the ocean. In this case, how can conservation, and the benefit derived from it, be any more of a temporary benefit than fishing the reef would be?

Linda G.

While I fervently support the findings of this study, its intent and prospective benefits of elevating the economic value generated in Barbados through recreational SCUBA diving, I believe assigning a value to non-market good/activity merits expanding surveys to include people who aren’t the “generally affluent and highly educated, with an average of 7 years of diving experience.” I don’t believe it too bold to assume that traveling to foreign locations to SCUBA dive is not the only hobby of the 165 recreational divers who participated in the survey, as most were from the U.S. and the U.K.
I imagine that the recreational SCUBA divers’ willingness to pay for “good coral cover, fish diversity, and presence of sea turtles is higher” than paying for dives because they have the luxury (sufficient income) to travel to a location which has both good dives and fish diversity, good coral, and sea turtles. That said, it’s plausible that the people surveyed are financially stable enough to think beyond necessities and thoroughly enjoy scuba trips in exotic waters. I echo many of the above comments when saying I felt this study neglected surveying a more diverse group of people who could value these waters for essential reasons. How would people who previously benefited from the waters by making just enough money to feed their families benefit from the economic value generated from maintaining the waters’ aesthetic appeal?

Michael DeMatteis

The ability to determine a monetary value for non-market goods and services, in this case ecotourism and coral reefs, allows for far more informed and perhaps convincing arguments for environmental preservation policy. Being able to quantify a numerical value for living entities, like sea turtles and coral cover in reefs, through hedonic pricing methods is interesting. The method of taking a service like SCUBA diving in the Barbados, separating that into specific characteristics, and then valuing those characteristics in terms of their importance in relation to the consumers is something that could be used to quantify values for most non-market goods/services.

Often many dismiss the value of environmental preservation not because they believe that there is no monetary value associated with the preservation of natural resources but because the monetary value is does not present itself until too far into the future. When discussing conservation policy it is largely unappealing to leave millions of gallons of oil in the ground in order to preserve a forest because most people who are involved in determining the policy are, simply, only concerned with the present and see no value in the conservation for the future. The article presents a point that will combat this theory and will prove that there is a monetary value in natural resources present now and in the future. I believe this will help influence much policy.

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