Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 8-15-2014


Estuaries, which are among the most productive natural systems on earth, provide an array of human welfare benefits if well managed. Non-market valuation (NMV) is considered a powerful tool, which can contribute to informed policies for estuarine management. More than 30 year of research valuing estuaries around the world does not appear to have had a major impact on estuarine management. Published examples of policy applications using estimates from these studies, are rare, leading to the question whether the effort and money spent on this research has been useful and worth the cost.

Despite raising public awareness of the importance of estuaries, NMV should play a wider and more influential role in estuarine management. Our research assumes there is a gap between economic studies and their use in policy decisions. We identify the gap, address the size of the gap, and reasons for it. Our research also seeks to understand the reasons why these values are not used more in the decision making process.

In this paper, we review current literature, and report on a survey of key personnel from two US agencies, NOAA and EPA, that oversee estuaries and sanctuaries, and we will summarize their observations regarding why there is a gap. As an emerging field for many around the world, NMV is receiving increasing attention in China where estuarine resources are threatened by a multitude of human activities. We explore how and whether China can draw lessons from the US cases we have studied and what benefits China can expect from doing NMV studies and encouraging their results be used in Chinese estuarine management.