The existence value of biodiversity in South Africa : how interest, experience, knowledge, income and perceived level of threat influence local willingness to pay

Turpie, Jane K
Ecological Economics
Publication Year: 
South Africa is rich in biological diversity, but measures to conserve this heritage are under-funded and are of relatively low priority at national level. Part of the problem is that the social value of biodiversity is unknown, and thus the potential impact of a loss of biodiversity on social wellbeing is not recognised. Some of these threats, particularly climate change, are predicted to have major impacts on biodiversity within the next 50 years. This study investigates the public interest, experience and knowledge of biodiversity and uses contingent valuation methods to estimate its existence value, with emphasis on the internationally significant fynbos biome in the Western Cape. More than half of respondents classified themselves as actively or passionately interested in nature, and a high proportion had recently visited major nature reserves. Interest was correlated with knowledge, and both were positively correlated with willingness to pay (WTP) for biodiversity conservation, though WTP was constrained by income level. WTP for conservation was relatively high ($3.3 million per year for fynbos, $58 million for national biodiversity), and comparable with government conservation budgets. WTP increased dramatically (to up to $15 million and $263 million per year, respectively) when respondents were faced with the predicted impacts of climate change on biodiversity. The latter is probably a better estimate of the full existence value of biodiversity, since respondents were faced with absolute losses rather than, say, the reduction in species diversity.
Name of Journal: 
Ecological Economics
Resource Type: 
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.