Bridging the gap between supply and demand for valuation evidence (BRIDGE).
Principal Investigator: Prof Mike Christie, Aberystwyth University
Administrator: Jasper Kenter, University of Aberdeen
The project has now ended. Here is a summary of the findings; the full project report is available at the bottom of the page.
Nature provides a wide range of benefits to people including goods that we consume (such as wild foods or timber), regulating our natural environment (e.g. trees store carbon, wetlands help regulate water flows and thus reduce flooding) and providing cultural benefits (such as the joy we attain from viewing wildlife).
However, the capacity of UK natural resources to deliver these valued ‘ecosystem services’ has declined dramatically over the last 60 years. Although natural, social and economic scientists have increasingly produced evidence on the immense value of nature, the uptake of this evidence by decision-makers has been limited. the VNN BRIDGE project investigated the relationship between the 'supply of' and 'demand for' evidence on the value of nature. By better understanding the processes around the generation and uptake of knowledge, and the needs of decision-makers, we can help improve the decisions that policy-makers, businesses and the third sector make. The main objective of this scoping project was to formulate a series of research questions around this area of research.
The project team ran a series of four workshops in which 70 academics and policy-makers from a wide range of natural and social science background discussed:
- How different types of values and different methods of valuation nature are perceived by decision-makers. In particular we also looked at how participatory and deliberative approaches to valuation, and the assessment of 'shared values' of nature could help improve the legitimacy and validity of valuation evidence.
- The dynamic relationship between those who provide evidence and those who wish to use it, and the technical and political obstacles and barriers that stop valuation evidence being used more.
Based on the workshop discussions, a series of scientific papers are currently being produced that address key issues relating to how the value of nature might best be integrated into decision-making (more details to come).
Top 10 key research questions
During the discussions, it was clear that there were currently significant knowledge gaps in how the values of nature are used in decision-making. The team identified 28 key research questions to meet these gaps. The top 10 questions were:
- Values for ecosystem services: How can people’s values for different provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services best be identified, measured, aggregated and used in decision-making?
- How to express values: What preferences do people have for the way in which values are elicited (e.g. as individuals or in groups; using monetary or non-monetary measures), and why, and how can valuation techniques be adapted to account for these preferences?
- Deliberation, participation and social learning: What opportunities do deliberation, participation and social learning approaches bring to the development of valuation methods? Do these approaches influence people’s values, do they provide people with different ways to express values, does their usefulness vary between different dimensions of value and types of ecosystem services, and how are the resultant values perceived by decision-makers?
- Evidence needs: What kind of evidence on the value of ecosystems and associated ecosystem services do decision-makers need to improve their decisions, and how do these evidence needs vary across different decision-makers, and in different decision-making contexts and venues?
- Decision-making processes: How do decision-makers incorporate ecosystem knowledge and value evidence in their decisions, and what factors account for this pattern of knowledge use?
- Risk and uncertainty: How do people’s perceptions of risk, uncertainty and vulnerability (particularly relating to changes in ecosystems and the delivery of services) influence their held and expressed valuations and how might these perceptions be measured in a way that generates data useful for decision-making?
- Shared social values: Can people simultaneously possess and express ‘individual’ values, ‘social’ values, and ‘shared social’ values, and if so, how do they relate to each other and how can they be defined, identified, measured, aggregated and used in decision-making?
- Knowledge: How does people’s existing knowledge and new knowledge acquired in a valuation exercise influence their held and expressed valuations and how might the impacts of this knowledge be measured in a way that generates data useful for decision-making?
- Empirical evidence: How, why and in what circumstances has the adoption of value evidence, the ecosystems approach, the ecosystem services framework and/or ecosystem service assessments and value evidence led to ‘better’ policy decisions?
- Making evidence more useful: How can evidence on the value of ecosystems and associated ecosystem services be presented in such a way that it is more useful to particular types of decision-makers in different decision-making contexts and venues?
The above outputs will be of interest to both the academic and decision-making communities, and will inform future research on how to provide more targeted and more legitimate value evidence that better meets the demands of decision-makers.
Why is this work important?
Project leader, Prof Mike Christie, explains his interest in the BRIDGE work:
Much of my research investigates the benefits people get from natural resources. For example, through surveys, I have demonstrated the multiple economic benefits that people get from forests through, for example, the harvesting of timber; as a place to go for a walk and enjoy wildlife and the beauty of nature, or as a carbon store.
If governments are to design policies to effectively protect natural resources such as forests, it is really important that they account for the multiple ways people use and benefit from these natural resource in the design of conservation policies, and the many individual and shared values that they have for these places.
My personal interest in the Valuing Nature Network BRIDGE project is in working with decision makers to ensure that we can find ways to more effective embed the scientific evidence that the project's research produces into policy decisions.
Download the final report below: