Spatial discounting of ecosystem services

Rintaro Yamaguchi, Payal Shah

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Spatial discounting of ecosystem services

Author:Rintaro Yamaguchi, Payal Shah
Journal:Resource and Energy Economics, 62

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Spatial discounting, Discounting, Spatial decay Ecosystem services, Welfare economic theory, Willingness to pay, Benefit transfer


The impact of conservation efforts targeted at preserving ecosystem services largely depend on the welfare implications associated with spatial variations in the provision of ecosystem services. While there is ample empirical evidence of spatial discounting or decay of the valuation of ecosystem services, there are still few underpinnings based on welfare economic theory. We establish a theory of spatial discounting that closely follows the concept of time discounting pertaining to climate change, and show spatial discount rates in the consumption, ecosystem service, and willingness to pay (WTP) numeraires. We consider the role of key parameters such as pure rate of spatial preference, consumption change, ecosystem services change, population density, and elasticity of marginal utility. We find that the spatial discount rate of WTP for ecosystem services that frequently appears in the empirical literature is the difference between the ecosystem service discount rate and consumption discount rate, where the ecosystem service discount rate includes both physical distance decay and welfare effects. Finally, we use numerical simulations to illustrate how the three different spatial discount rates vary with the spatial distance from the source of ecosystem services and with consumption patterns, implying many more possible spatial variations of WTP.