Knowledge Platform


Classically, private and public good-type services and benefits provided in landscapes are valued by estimating a "Total Economic Value" (TEV). Economic evaluation is based on the assumption that human beings derive benefits or "utility" from the use of ecosystem services and that they are willing to "trade" something for maintaining these services. Economic valuation aims at measuring ecosystem services in monetary terms, while the main challenge and also main criticism is the monetary valuation of public good-type ecosystem services that do not enter markets and so have no directly observable monetary benefits. Economic valuation studies of non-marketed ecosystem goods and services can be conducted by either stated or revealed preference methods. The most commonly used stated preference methods for environmental economic valuation are contingent valuation and choice modelling (van Zanten et al., 2014).

Increasingly the sole economic valuation of ecosystem services is amended by qualitative social valuation techniques. Social valuation takes the fact into account that especially the use of public good type services affects more than only one individual and often raises normative and ethical questions. Social valuation considers that individuals and groups in society attach spiritual, aesthetic, cultural, moral, and other values to their environment (MEA, 2005). Particularly the assessment of the value of cultural services, such as such as sense of place and sense of community, physical and mental health, educational values and social cohesion, are subject to social valuation.

In general the question arises, if an economic valuation based on individual preferences is sufficient, since individuals are often not aware of the complex cause-effect chains of landscape valorisation. Often expert knowledge is required, in particular if coherences are complex and consumers lack experience in the assessment of the respective environmental or landscape oriented services.

The valuation of services and benefits from agricultural landscapes is an important driver of the demand for ecosystem services. The values different actors assign to landscape services and the benefits from their use strongly influences how agricultural ecosystems are managed - currently and in the future.

Empirical Case Study Evidence

In the course of the empirical work in CLAIM, various ad hoc studies aimed ad assessing particularly the values of public good-type landscape services for different economic actors in different regional contexts.

An Italian ad-hoc study investigates the possible relationship between the relevance attributed to some components of agricultural landscape and the behaviour in ecosystem service use for both residents and tourists. The study shows that the majority of local landscape elements are evaluated to be an advantage for agriculture, residents as well as for tourists. The study makes particularly clear, that for different actors, different elements are more advantageous. The models applied give support to the hypothesis that awareness/importance attributed to landscape is positively associated to the attitude to use recreational opportunities in the landscape. Also it can be shown that promotional activities, such as local festivals or wine-flavour routes, positively influence the awareness towards landscape. However, the study also reveals that there is no "direct link" between the importance attributed to landscape and the attitude to consume local agricultural products. The study therefore shows that the values attributed to landscape services are only in parts "translated" into landscape valorisation by all consumer groups.

Other preference studies in Poland, the Netherlands and Germany confirm that preferences towards landscapes are particularly different for different sectors of a rural economy. Moreover it was found that preferences are dependent on individual's socio-cultural background, e.g. level of education, gender or attitude and value setting (DE4).

In general, tourism and residents clearly prefer landscapes rich in landscape elements (NL, DE, PL). A study in Bulgaria however shows that touristic interest is in part very specific and follows clear objectives. It was found that the wine tourism in the Bulgarian case study is only interested in attributes directly connected to the touristic objective, namely wineries, wine-restaurants, etc., rather than being interested in the overall features of the local landscape.

For agriculture, the Polish preference study shows, that the awareness and values agriculture assigns to landscape and its elements clearly focuses on the economic usability of landscape elements such as agricultural fields and pastures. As regards public good-type landscape services, agriculture attributes values to landscape elements as soon as they provide an economic advantage, for example the regulating services of shelterbelts which enhance the yield of cash crops.

A direct comparison between the results of the Dutch and the German studies, which followed the same research approach, clearly shows, that preferences towards the same landscape elements are highly regional and context specific. For example express visitors in German case study area strong preferences for a high level of point elements whereas in the Dutch study area point elements was one of the less preferred attributes in the landscape.

The Polish study also brings to light a very important aspect which must be taken into account when relying on preference studies for the valuation of landscape services and its benefits: The study shows that tourist and visitors clearly tend to overvalue the environmental and economic functions of landscape elements, by attributing high values to nearly all possible economic and ecologic functions of a landscape element.

The valuation of private and public good-type services has also been investigated in a horizontal study, across all case study regions of the CLAIM project. In contrast to the studies before, the assessment in this study was not consumer, but expert-based. In this study, both private and public goods have not been analysed in the context of preference for single consumers, but in the context of the contribution of such services to the generation of socio-economic benefits and regional competitiveness. The results of this exercise shows, that as regards generating value from agricultural landscapes people have a higher consciousness towards consumptive and marketable goods provided by a certain environment, than towards essential, but hardly discernible, benefits from the use of public good-type services.

Conclusions & recommendations

Landscape management and agricultural policies have an impact on private and public good-type landscape features. As regards public goods, related management measures first of all aim at environmental targets, while neglecting aesthetic values. Considering the results of many of the valuation studies in CLAIM, visual qualities of landscapes throughout many different regions in Europe are highly appreciated by landscape consumers. Including an aesthetic value perspective (next to environmental values) in landscape management policies could lead to a multi-objective targeting of policies, supporting a diverse set of ecosystem services which potentially lead to socio-economic benefits and support local competitiveness.

As regards the values of landscapes and landscape services, all valuation studies show high preferences of economic actors/consumers towards landscape. However, it also becomes obvious that preferences are different in different regional contexts and for different actors/consumers. It becomes clear, that European governance strategies with regard to public good provision have to be context specific and have to consider regional conditions.

Tourism and residents clearly prefers landscapes rich in landscape elements, while those actors tend to overvalue the environmental and economic functions of landscape elements. Agriculture in contrast clearly focuses on the economic usability of landscape elements and attributes values to landscape elements as soon as they provide an economic advantage. For policy the question will be crucial of how to choose the best strategy to exploit the agricultural landscapes' potential in order to improve local competiveness in an economic as well as in a social sense. It appears necessary to increase the knowledge on positive, also public good type landscape aspects. However, in order to suggest future landscape management measures which improve the generation of value from landscapes it is necessary to further improve the knowledge of landscape valuation and especially the values of multiplier effects of socioeconomic benefits from landscape. Only then the awareness of farmers and society towards the economic opportunities underneath landscape valorisation can trigger new behaviours and new market products.

References & further reading

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) (2005). Ecosystems and well-being. Washington, DC: Island Press. Washington, DC.

Van Zanten, B.T., Verburg, P.H., Espinosa, M., Gomez-y-Paloma, S., Galimberti, G., Kantelhardt, J., Martin Kapfer, M., Lefebvre, M., Manrique, R., Piorr, A., Raggi, M., Schaller, L., Targetti, S., Zasada, I., Viaggi, D. (2014). European agricultural landscapes, common agricultural policy and ecosystem services: a review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 34(2): 309-325.