Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 9-2013


Based on unique geographical, economic and ecological characteristics, the coastal regions have been serving as the most important supports for human benefits. From food provision, ecosystem regulation, wildlife habitat to various recreational and aesthetic activities, humans have been obtaining direct and indirect well-being from the coastal ecosystems. If properly managed and sustainably protected, these benefits should be translated to human welfare for current and future generations (Brenner, et al., 2010) . The lack of complete understanding of total values obtained from coastal ecosystems, especially the underestimating of ecosystem benefits has led to management failures. As a result, most coastal resources are suffering from depletion and even extinction, which pose serious threat to human existence and development.

One of the most important challenges faced for effective coastal management is how to capture the total economic value of ecosystem services. Since most benefits from natural resources lie outside of the market, there are no prices to reveal these values. The majority of social choices, however, are made based on monetary values. When confronting competing uses of ecosystems, the most important thing is to ascertain which choice would be worth more than others (Wilson, 2005) . For example, a wetland can be either converted into agriculture or maintained for wildlife habitat; the shoreline can be either developed for industrial purposes or recreational activities. Whatever choice we make, it probably means that one option is more valuable than the others. Thus, the valuation issue can’t be avoided as long as there are competing options for the use of natural resources.

Non-market valuation assesses the contributions of ecosystem services to human well-being by determining the preference of users. That is how much money users are willing to pay for ecosystem improvements or how much they are willing to accept for ecosystem losses. Through exploring these preferences, the natural capital can be accounted for economically and quantitatively. It can not only lead to better understanding of ecosystem benefits, but also make it possible to compare ecosystem services with other conventional goods and services (e.g. real estate) in monetary terms.

Shandong is a coastal province of China, which is located on the eastern edge of the North China Plain and extends out to sea in the form of the Shandong Peninsula (see fig. 1). The coastline is more than 3,000 km in length with some 296 islands. The coast comprises a variety of environments represented by rocky coasts, beaches, estuaries and river deltas, of which the Yellow River delta has the largest, the most extensive and integrated wetland ecosystems in China. The diverse coastal resources support the prosperous development of marine-based industries, in 2010, which accounted for 16.5% of Shandong’s GDP . In 2011, the Chinese government launched the first ocean economic zone in Shandong, which signaled that Shandong coastal regions had become the focus of marine policy decisions. Since every decision should be based on accurate and inclusive values, the following questions arise:

  • What benefits are related to coastal resources?
  • What are these benefits worth to different stakeholders?
  • How should we evaluate these benefits?
  • Is there a difference among different valuation techniques?

Answering these questions can help to incorporate ecosystem values into decision making and lead to well-informed coastal management policy. However, there has been little, if any, research on economic valuation of ecosystem services in Shandong. The absence of quantification of the benefits related to the coast has meant that most existing polices and decisions lack reasonable and convincible foundation. Moreover the coastal ecosystems are already under serious threat due to ignoring and neglecting their benefits during development and exploitation.

The objective of this study is to identify the ecosystem services provided by coastal ecosystems in Shandong, China. By developing a non-market valuation system, the aim is to apply the range of methodologies to specific benefits derived from various kinds of coastal resources to estimate their values. The paper proceeds as follows. Section 2 demonstrates the demand for valuation of ecosystems services provided by coastal ecosystems in Shandong. A review of existing techniques for capturing the non-market values of coastal ecosystems and an analysis of which technique best suits which context and situation follow in Section3. Section 4 identifies the services and benefits derived from coastal ecosystems and develops a non-market valuation system.


The Center for the Blue Economy hosts visiting scholars for short-term research residencies in Monterey, California. In 2012-2013, the CBE hosted three scholars that have remained influential in our work: Stephen Hynes, Director of SEMRU (Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit) part of the Whitaker Institute at the National University of Ireland, Galway, Editorial Board Member, Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics, Center for the Blue Economy, 2012-2013 CBE Visiting Scholar, and Rui Zhao, Associate Research Fellow, National Marine Data and Information Service, State Oceanic Administration, China, 2012-2013 Visiting Scholar, Center for the Blue Economy, and Jing Guo, PhD candidate, Ocean Resources Management, Ocean University of China, 2012-2013 Visiting Scholar, Center for the Blue Economy.