Spatially Explicit Valuation of Ecosystem Goods and Services in the Alps as a Support Tool for Regional Decision Making

Adrienne Grêt-Regamey


Economic development relies crucially on natural resources and on the productivity of natural Systems. Economic actors, however, do not have to pay for these production factors because most of the environmental benefits natural resources provide are not marketed and therefore do not command market price. Does accounting for ecosystem goods and Services (ES) in landscape planning help secure long-term economic benefits? Within several building blocks, the value of ES for the regional economy of a mountainous region — the Landschaft Davos (Grisons, Switzerland) — is studied, and a framework to account for ES in landscape planning is suggested. In a first step, a study was designed focusing on the valuation of an important ecosystem Service for a tourism region, namely scenic beauty (Paper I). A prototypical technique to predict preferences for views using GIS (Geographic Information System)-based variables was developed. Data on scenic preferences for landscape changes were gathered using a web-based survey. The relationship between the portion of the field of view, which was taken by different land-uses changes were found to be correlated with the willingness-to-pay responses, and was used to predict changes in scenic values for another view in the region. In a second step, a GIS modeling platform was developed to value changes in the Provision of a set of selected ES (Paper II). We compared the impacts of a human development scenario and a climate scenario on the ES values. The framework helped quantify and visualize the negative impacts of urban expansion and tourist infrastructure developments on scenic beauty and habitats. We showed that forest expansion, predictable under a climate change scenario, favors natural avalanche protection and habitats, and that the loss of ES due to new tourist infrastructures diminished the benefits of the development by 70%. Yet, the framework suggested in Paper II did not include the explicit quantification of the uncertainties related to the quantification and valuation procedure. Especially the use of monetary valuation is known to be associated with many uncertainties,which we discussed in Paper I. Bayesian networks (BN) are know to facilitate the explicit modeling of the involved uncertainties in a probabilistic framework. As natural protection from avalanches was identified as an important ES in the case study region, we linked a BN to a GIS for avalanche risk assessment (Paper III). The study showed that such an approach allows quantifying and visualizing uncertainties in a spatially explicit manner. We could map areas with high uncertainties, located at the border of the avalanche run-out areas, and identify the variables responsible for these uncertainties.While avalanche pressure was identified as having a large influence on the cost values, we applied a Bayesian inference to determine a probabilistic model of the variables influencing the calculated avalanche pressure using observations of past avalanches (Paper IV). Applied to the avalanche risk assessment in Paper III, we found a difference of a factor of two when comparing the resulting annual risks to that calculated using the traditional semi-empirical avalanche hazard model. The question of the contribution of the value of ES to the regional economy was addressed by integrating the regionally valued ES on the supply side of an Input- Output Table (Paper V). Using several different indicators based on this IOT, we discussed the benefits of the ES for regional development. While the considered ES "avalanche protection","carbon Sequestration", and "wood production" added only 2% to the annual regional production volume, the model helped identify which economic sectors benefit most from the use of ES and how important they are for different industries. We showed that, if we abandon using the landscape for economic production, it loses its value not only for the industry formerly using the land (e.g. agriculture), but also for the entire regional production and supply chains linked with this industry. To counteract this effect, we demonstrated that the use of ES had to be intensified: Economic activities should encourage using the ES more intensively, while landscape development should aim at providing the required Services. Based on the knowledge acquired in the first five papers, we addressed the question of the significance of accounting for ES values in landscape planning (Paper VI). We showed that by linking a BN with a GIS, we could identify optimal locations for new settlement areas in regard to impacts to ES. A large part of the optimal areas matched already existing plans to expand the golf course at the entry of the Dischma Valley. The BN allowed explicitly addressing the uncertainties at all levels of the quantification and valuation procedure, and supported a structured approach to the interdisciplinary task requiring information from different specialist fields. While the value of the ES diminished the benefits of a new settlement area by just 30% in 2050, we showed that their relative impact increased in the long-term: If preferences for preserving ES are low nowadays, the expected benefits of a settlement expansion decrease significantly. Thus, incorporating ES values in planning will not bring about sustainability unless each generation is committed to transferring to the next sufficient natural resources to make development sustainable. Considering the importance of the explicit consideration of the uncertainties in the quantification and valuation of ES, BN linked to a GIS are supportive for presenting credible information to planners in a spatially explicit manner. The approach allows unifying human expertise and quantitative knowledge in a coherent framework, which overcomes a major limitation of previous approaches. While the GIS-based flexible framework allows integrating additional ES and different valuation data, more research needs to be conducted to investigate the transferability of such an approach to other areas providing other ES.


Diss. ETH No. 17250


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