Environmental Benefit Transfers of Ecosystem Service Valuation

S. Liu, R. Portela, N. Rao, A. Ghermandi, X. Wang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Benefit transfer has been widely used to inform economically efficient environmental decision making, being considered an imperfect, yet valid, alternative to conducting primary valuation research. Our objective in this chapter is to review the application of benefit transfer in valuing ecosystem services. First, we discuss three recent trends in the field: geographic information system (GIS)-supported point transfer, integrated dynamic modeling-function transfer, and meta-analysis. Following this, we carry out a literature survey of the benefit transfer cases in the Environmental Valuation Reference Inventory revealing that (1) benefit transfers, defined in a broad sense, are often used in combination with primary research to estimate ecosystem service values, (2) compared to the cases that conduct primary research, benefit transfer studies are more capable of valuing multiple ecosystem services, and (3) only 11% of the transfer studies have conducted validity tests. This situation of few validity tests is worrisome, considering the fact that the implementation of transfer value techniques is often dictated not only by limited resources for conducting primary studies, but also by whether transfer errors are small enough to provide acceptable accuracy for the task at hand. Errors on the order of 30-40% are believed to be acceptable, yet we argue that this number should also be varied depending on the policy context. We conclude the chapter with two cases studies: a GIS-supported point transfer in valuing the ecosystem services in the US state of New Jersey and a meta-analysis of contingent valuation studies in valuing ecosystem services of coastal and nearshore marine ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEcological Economics of Estuaries and Coasts
Place of PublicationWaltham, MA
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780080878850
ISBN (Print)9780123747112
StatePublished - 6 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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