The local cultural and recreational value of nature on St Eustatius

St Eustatius, is a small island in the Caribbean and a special municipality of the Netherlands. As many other small islands, St Eustatius’ marine and terrestrial ecosystems are vulnerable to external disturbances, such as natural disasters but also pressures from human behaviour. Multiple stresses can lead to degradation of ecosystems, if these are not able to recover until the next disturbance. As ecosystems provide benefits to people, so called ecosystem services, the value of these services decreases, as the ecosystem degrades. Economic valuation of ecosystem services identifies the costs and benefits of human interaction with nature, e.g. construction, and helps to develop long-term development strategies that take ecosystem services into account. This research is evaluating the local recreational and cultural services that ecosystems on St Eustatius provide to their residents and their value to the inhabitants, as part of a larger study on the total economic value (TEV) of the island’s natural environment. To this end, a household survey with an embedded choice experiment is used. The results of the survey show that: (1) Half of the population has a general willingness to pay (WTP) for nature management; (2) the biggest perceived threats to the environment are oil spills, solid waste and invasive species; and (3) that the people of St Eustatius want see livestock on the island fenced and archaeology managed. The total aggregated annual WTP of all households on St Eustatius for the conservation of terrestrial land is 29,000 USD and for the marine ecosystems 65,000 USD. Residents of St Eustatius are willing to pay 41,000 USD for the management of archaeological heritage. An interesting result is that the people are keen on managing the roaming livestock by contributing additionally 64,000 USD on an annual basis. 

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