Analysis of the uncertainty in the monetary valuation of ecosystem services: a case study at the river basin scale

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Ecosystem services provide multiple benefits to human wellbeing and are increasingly considered by policy-makers in environmental management. However, the uncertainty related with the monetary valuation of these benefits is not yet adequately defined or integrated by policy-makers. Given this background, our aim was to quantify different sources of uncertainty when performing monetary valuation of ecosystem services, in order to provide a series of guidelines to reduce them. With an example of 4 ecosystem services (i.e., water provisioning, waste treatment, erosion protection, and habitat for species) provided at the river basin scale, we quantified the uncertainty associated with the following sources: (1) the number of services considered, (2) the number of benefits considered for each service, (3) the valuation metrics (i.e. valuation methods) used to value benefits, and (4) the uncertainty of the parameters included in the valuation metrics. Results indicate that the highest uncertainty was caused by the number of services considered, as well as by the number of benefits considered for each service, whereas the parametric uncertainty was similar to the one related to the selection of valuation metric, thus suggesting that the parametric uncertainty, which is the only uncertainty type commonly considered, was less critical than the structural uncertainty, which is in turn mainly dependent on the decision-making context. Given the uncertainty associated to the valuation structure, special attention should be given to the selection of services, benefits and metrics according to a given context ​
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