User fees across ecosystem boundaries: Are SCUBA divers willing to pay for terrestrial biodiversity conservation?


  • Ecosystems are intrinsically linked, but conservation across boundaries is limited.
  • User fees applied across ecosystem boundaries may improve conservation funding.
  • Divers will fund terrestrial conservation, if coral improvements are expected.
  • On Bonaire these funds would be large enough to cover terrestrial grazer control.

While ecological links between ecosystems have been long recognised, management rarely crosses ecosystem boundaries. Coral reefs are susceptible to damage through terrestrial run-off, and failing to account for this within management threatens reef protection. In order to quantify the extent to that coral reef users are willing to support management actions to improve ecosystem quality, we conducted a choice experiment with SCUBA divers on the island of Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands. Specifically, we estimated their willingness to pay to reduce terrestrial overgrazing as a means to improve reef health. Willingness to pay was estimated using the multinomial, random parameter and latent class logit models. Willingness to pay for improvements to reef quality was positive for the majority of respondents. Estimates from the latent class model determined willingness to pay for reef improvements of between $31.17 - $413.18/year, dependent on class membership. This represents a significant source of funding for terrestrial conservation, and illustrates the potential for user fees to be applied across ecosystem boundaries. We argue that such across-ecosystem-boundary funding mechanisms are an important avenue for future investigation in many connected systems.

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