«Value of the Yanchep Caves: Assessing Yanchep National Park Visitor's Willingness to Pay for Environmental Improvement to the Caves James Perriam1, ...»
Value of the Yanchep Caves:
Assessing Yanchep National Park Visitor's
Willingness to Pay for Environmental Improvement
to the Caves
James Perriam1, Sorada Tapsuwan2, Michael Burton1
and Steven Schilizzi1
School of Agricultural Resource Economics, University of Western Australia
CSIRO Land and Water
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Acknowledgement This work was funded by the Gnangara Sustainability Strategy and CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country Flagship.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the ongoing advice and assistance from the members of the Gnangara Sustainability Strategy Taskforce, the Department of the Environment, Yanchep National Park and the University of Western Australia.
i Contents Summary
2. Study site
3. Literature review
3.1 Previous valuations of caves and environmental assets on the Gnangara Mound.. 6
3.2 Economic techniques for valuation of environmental goods
3.2.1 Revealed preference method
3.2.2 Stated preference method
3.3 Survey and sampling techniques
3.3.1 Survey method
3.3.2 Hypothetical market scenario
3.3.3 Payment vehicle
4.1 Questionnaire design
4.2 Population, sample and survey mode
4.3 Survey implementation
4.4 Statistical analyses
5.1 Descriptive statistics
5.2 Bivariate probit results
5.3 WTP and revenue estimates
6. Summary and conclusion
Appendix A – Sample questionnaire
ii List of Figures Figure 1 Location of Yanchep National Park
Figure 2 Number of visitors to Yanchep National Park and Crystal Cave per year
Figure 3 Sample of a DBDC question
Figure 4 WTP probability response function for Park entry and cave entry fee
List of Tables Table 1 WTP bid amounts used for the three survey versions
Table 2 Summary of demographic data
Table 3 Summary of Yanchep National Park and caves visits
Table 4 Summary of attitudinal questions
Table 5 Results of the bivariate probit model for the park
Table 6 Results of the bivariate probit model for the caves
Table 7 Proposed entry fees for the Yanchep caves
SUMMARY Climate change is threatening valuable ecosystems all over the world with extinction. In most cases, preserving or restoring these affected ecosystems requires continual efforts that come at a significant cost to society. Under resource constraints, often the decision about which system to preserve artificially must be made in conjunction with social values. This paper tackles this important issue of eliciting societal preferences over artificially maintaining threatened ecosystems at significant costs through a survey of visitors, and by applying a non-market valuation technique.
Caves in Yanchep National Park support important ecosystems, but their level of environmental quality is threatened by falling groundwater levels. The problem concerns a declining population of stygofauna, which are groundwater invertebrates that live in only seven of the cave water systems in Western Australia. Survival of these species requires the groundwater table to be high enough to fill the cave floor. However, the groundwater table has fallen below this optimal level. A decision has been made to ensure the survival of the stygofauna by artificially pumping water into the caves to raise the groundwater table.
The state government, through the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), has invested $1.7M in developing a bore, a piping system, and a water-filtering system for the Yanchep Caves Recovery Project. On top of all the capital expenditure is the ongoing cost, which is estimated to be $110,000 per year. If there is no government subsidy for the ongoing costs of the pumping project, Yanchep National Park will have to raise funds from elsewhere.
This situation raises the question of whether visitors are willing to pay to support the project and to have an artificially maintained state of the environment.
A double-bounded contingent valuation method over two payment vehicles was used in this study to estimate how much visitors to the park are willing to pay towards preventing a further drop in the water level in the caves. The survey used double-bounded dichotomous choice questions to measure respondents’ willingness to pay (WTP) for higher entry fees to the National Park and the caves in order to meet the costs of the cave restoration project. The probit model estimated that the median WTP for park entry was $13.85, which represents an increase of $3.67 on the current adult entry fee. Median WTP for cave entry was $9.95, an increase of $3.45 on the current fee for adults. These increases would raise annual revenue by $184,800 per year for park entry, and $61,056 per year for cave entry. Although consistent with the 'user-pays' principle, raising the cave entry fee only will not, unfortunately, be sufficient to cover the ongoing costs of the restoration project of $110,000 (which includes electricity, general maintenance and replacement of parts). Yanchep National Park may have to consider raising the park entry fee to help supplement the cost. The model also indicated that WTP responses were influenced by visitors' perceptions of the restoration project, their confidence in its success, and whether or not they intend to visit the caves in the future.
1. INTRODUCTION Water systems in the Yanchep caves have dried due to the falling water table of the superficial aquifer on the Gnangara Mound. This is mainly due to reduced rainfall as a result of climate change, but also due to ongoing abstraction for urban water use, irrigation of agriculture crops, and water use by the pine plantation upstream of the caves (F Felton, DEC, pers. comm. 2006).
Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs) that rely on the caves systems require access to groundwater to maintain their ecological structure and function. If the groundwater level, which is mostly fed by rainfall and recharge into the superficial aquifer, drops below a certain threshold, these species will have to adapt to less water or they will die. Unfortunately, it is unlikely Perth’s rainfall will increase in the near future; therefore the water demand for scheme water, agriculture, and the pine plantation from the Gnangara Mound will continue to impact the cave ecosystems.
The superficial aquifer is also tapped for bore water by horticulturists in a region south-west of Yanchep National Park, as well as homeowners, industry, local authorities, golf courses, etc.
Each year 66GL of groundwater is pumped from the Mound to irrigate horticulture crops in Wanneroo. Water usage from many of these irrigation pumps was not monitored until the recent implementation of the Metering Program, where commercial bores extracting over 0.005GL (or =5ML) per year are being issued with meters (DoE 2005). The program may help to reduce abstraction, but there is no other incentive, nor is there a penalty to encourage bore owners to reduce use.
The Yanchep caves are an important social good for both cave visitors and those who value their existence. The caves also hold significant environmental value, as they contain GDEs called root-mat communities. These are formed when tuart trees (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) send their roots into the cave pools and streams, creating a habitat for rare and often endemic organisms. These communities are under threat due to the falling groundwater table, and
several caves are already dry. Artificial recharge appears to be the only option for sustaining the Threatened Ecological Communities (TECs).
The government responded to the declining water levels by creating an Interim Recovery Plan (IRP) for the caves (English et al. 2000). The IRP recommended that the Caves Recovery team construct a pumping operation that will re-fill five caves with water from the superficial aquifer.
The objective is to reinstate and protect the TECs. Currently, several government departments are investigating future land-use options for the Gnangara Mound. This project is gathering and integrating ecological, economic and social information to determine the consequences of future groundwater recharge scenarios. The predicted outcomes will inform Gnangara Mound decision-makers as well as the community. The value the public places on the Yanchep caves is useful for this project, as it is indicative of the social value of the Gnangara Mound.
The Department of Water (DoW) has held several stakeholder workshops in order to improve Gnangara Mound management. The first was in November 2004, and participants decided a broad, long-term management strategy should be developed which integrated all state government agencies (URS 2005). A second study in 2005 focused on the social values attached to wetlands, caves and other groundwater-dependent ecosystems on the Gnangara Mound by government employees (state and local), and interest groups such as researchers and community groups (URS 2005).
The ecosystems were ranked by Image 2 Front entrance of Crystal Cave interview and workshop participants and placed into four categories of importance. Crystal Cave and Loch McNess were both placed in category 1, the highest overall in situ social values, while Water, Car Park, Twilight and Boomerang Caves (all as one feature) were in category 3. However, the raw data shows eight out of 10 participants placed these caves in the first category, with four of these people citing root-mats or research potential as reasons. This is significant, as it shows that once people are informed of the caves’ ecological importance, they perceive them as valuable.
Gilgi and Cabaret Caves were not included because they were dry at the time and therefore not linked to the Gnangara Mound. This is interesting because both Gilgi and Cabaret were named in the seven critical habitats fed by groundwater that contain root-mats (habitats critical to the survival of the TECs) in the IRP (English et al. 2000).
The third workshop discussed the artificial watering issue. This issue was supported by the government representatives, but several others believed it was simply a band-aid solution and that the cause of the problem should be addressed (Beckwith 2006). Interviewees were also asked to describe the social water requirements of the caves, which are the water characteristics required to maintain the social values (Beckwith 2006). For Crystal Cave, the common view was to improve water levels through re-watering in order to maintain the tourism/education social value of the cave (Beckwith 2006). For the other four caves, stakeholders felt research values should be maintained, but believed the lack of water would reduce social value for cave enthusiasts (Beckwith 2006).
To maintain water levels and aquatic communities, water is being pumped into the caves. This presents the problem of whether the public’s perceived value of the caves is high enough to justify this cost. The caves are public environmental goods, and the value of these types of goods cannot be measured by direct reference to any market price (Bateman et al. 2002). Nonmarket valuations have been developed to solve this problem.
Value of the Yanchep Caves • 3STUDY SITE
This valuation study will ask how much the public is willing to pay to artificially pump water back into the caves to maintain the water level. This is important for the environmental water allocation to the groundwater-dependent ecosystems, as it is often determined by the public’s perceived importance of the ecosystem relative to commercial interests. It is also possible that the public does not value water in the caves. This could be the case if the public’s recreation value is greater when the caves are dry and if this recreation value is higher than the conservation value.
The report begins with an introduction to Yanchep National Park and its caves. This is followed by a review of literature in terms of methodology and existing valuation studies. Specifically, non-market valuation techniques will be reviewed to determine a suitable choice for the Yanchep caves. Survey and sampling techniques, as well as the questionnaire design, are also explained in the following section. This is then followed by results from the survey and data analysis. The final section discusses the conclusion and offers suggestions for future research.
2. STUDY SITE