Ecosystems and biodiversity produce benefits to society, but many of them are hard to quantify. For example, it is unclear whether European societies gain benefits from experiencing rivers that host high native biodiversity. Without such knowledge, monetary investments into ecologically oriented river management plans are difficult to justify. The objective of this study was to reveal how the public in four European countries values ecological characteristics of domestic rivers and the outcomes of hypothetical river basin management plans designed to improve river ecosystems, particularly fish biodiversity. We conducted a choice experiment among the populations in Norway, Sweden, Germany, and France. We found similar preference structures in all countries with high marginal willingness-to-pay for improvements of abiotic river attributes (increased accessiblity of the river banks, improved bathing water quality, decreased river fragmentation). Citizens also benefited from certain fish species occurring in a river with native salmonid species being more valued than nonnatives, particularly in Norway, and from the degree of a river’s native biodiversity. Welfare measures calculated for selected river basin management plans (policy scenarios) revealed societal benefits that were primarily derived from ecological river management whereas a scenario focusing on hydroelectricity production generated the lowest utility. We conclude that ecological river management may produce high non market economic benefits in all study countries, particularly through the management of abiotic river attributes and the restoration of declining or extinct fish species. Our results help to inform decisions on restoration efforts by showcasing the benefits that these measures have for the public.
Managing river fish biodiversity generates substantial economic benefits in four European countries
Riepe, C., Meyerhoff, J., Fujitani, M., Aas, Ø., Radinger, J., Kochalski, S., Arlinghaus, R. (2019). Managing river fish biodiversity generates substantial economic benefits in four European countries. Environmental Management, 63, 759-776
Appeared in: Environmental Management, 63, 759-776