What type of value information is most valuable to stakeholders? Multi-sector perspectives on the utility and relevance of water valuation information

O. Handmaker, B. L. Keeler, D. Milz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

As the volume of ecosystem services modeling and valuation studies grows, decision-makers have access to more information than ever before on how human activities affect the provision and value of ecosystem services. However, few studies aim to understand how value information in different formats is interpreted and used by decision makers. Motivated by a desire to better understand how private, non-profit, and government sectors perceive and use valuation information in their work, we conducted over 40 semi-structured interviews with water resource professionals in the U.S. state of Minnesota. Our goal was to understand the factors that determine the utility, relevance, and influence of ecosystem services valuation information as it relates to water management. We presented interviewees with monetary return on investment statistics, spatial prioritization metrics, surveys on water values, and narrative stories and asked respondents to describe how they might use the results in their own work. The most common stated application of valuation information was for “raising awareness”, rather than the design of policies or incentive programs. Across sectors, respondents characterized monetary values as less influential than qualitative representations of values in the form of stories. Consistent with previous research, we found accessibility, ease of use, and credibility of information enhanced respondents stated utility of valuation information. Respondents expressed a desire for increased collaboration between ecosystem services researchers and decision-makers, creation of finer scale information, and improved communication about the methods and assumptions behind valuation studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-60
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Volume115
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for the research was provided by the McKnight Family Foundation, the Insitute on the Environment, the Minnesota Clean Water Council, and the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Decision support
  • Economic valuation
  • Ecosystem services
  • Semi-structured interviews
  • Value of information
  • Water quality

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