Willingness-to-pay for urban ecosystem services provision under objective and subjective uncertainty

Helen J. Davies* (Corresponding Author), Hangjian Wu, Marije Schaafsma

*Corresponding author for this work

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There is growing concern that failure to acknowledge the risk and uncertainty surrounding ecosystem services (ES) delivery could have adverse effects on support for ES policy intervention in the long run. However, acknowledging risk may reduce support for policy interventions in the short term. In this paper, we sought to determine whether willingness-to-pay (WTP) for urban forest ES in Southampton, UK is affected by objective and subjective uncertainty surrounding ES delivery. We conducted a discrete choice experiment with a split sample design: one with a scenario specifying risky ES outcomes and one where zero risk was implied. Respondents’ subjective certainty surrounding the provision of ES was determined before and after the choice questions. Despite respondents’ risk aversion, introducing an objective likelihood attribute did not reduce WTP compared to the scenario with implied certain ES outcomes. Furthermore, whilst WTP for the overall scheme was found to be adversely affected by the presence of risk around ES outcomes, subjective uncertainty seemed to reduce WTP more than objective probabilities. Our results therefore support the idea that both objective probabilities and subjective uncertainty should be explicitly incorporated in the design of stated preference studies for ES valuation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101344
Number of pages15
JournalResource and Energy Economics
Early online date19 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding for the research was provided by EPSRC, UK (EP/M50662X/1), the University of Southampton, UK (F22BU1), the Scottish Forestry Trust, UK (P15-253B), and Forest Research, UK. The funding sources had no involvement in study design, data collection/analysis, or report writing. Ethical approval was granted by Ethics and Research Governance Online (ERGO 41035) at H.J. Davies, H. Wu and M. Schaafsma Resource and Energy Economics 71 (2023) 101344 13 the University of Southampton. We thank the citizens of Southampton for their participation in this study. We are also grateful to those who provided useful comments during the pre-test phase of the survey.

Data Availability Statement

Supplementary data associated with this article can be found in the online version at doi:10.1016/j.reseneeco.2022.101344.


  • Direct utility
  • Discrete choice experiment
  • Objective uncertainty
  • Ecosystem services
  • Subjective uncertainty
  • Urban forests


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