Confronting Uncertainty and Missing Values in Environmental Value Transfer as Applied to Science Conservation

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    The nonuse (or passive) value of nature is important but time-consuming and costly to quantify with direct surveys. In the absence of estimates of these values, there will likely be less investment in conservation actions that generate substantial nonuse benefits, such as conservation of native species. To help overcome decisions about the allocation of conservation dollars that reflect the lack of estimates of nonuse values, these values can be estimated indirectly by environmental value transfer (EVT). EVT uses existing data or information from a study site such that the estimated monetary value of an environmental good is transferred to another location or policy site. A major challenge in the use of EVT is the uncertainty about the sign and size of the error (i.e., the percentage by which transferred value exceeds the actual value) that results from transferring direct estimates of nonuse values from a study to a policy site, the site where the value is transferred. An EVT is most useful if the decision-making framework does not require highly accurate information and when the conservation decision is constrained by time and financial resources. To account for uncertainty in the decision-making process, a decision heuristic that guides the decision process and illustrates the possible decision branches, can be followed. To account for the uncertainty associated with the transfer of values from one site to another, we developed a risk and simulation approach that uses Monte Carlo simulations to evaluate the net benefits of conservation investments and takes into account different possible distributions of transfer error. This method does not reduce transfer error, but it provides a way to account for the effect of transfer error in conservation decision making. Our risk and simulation approach and decision-based framework on when to use EVT offer better-informed decision making in conservation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1407-1417
    JournalConservation Biology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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