Ecosystems and beneficiaries

The Doñana National Park occupies the bank of the Guadalquivir River at its estuary with the Atlantic, and so major habitats consist of lagoons, marsh, dune fields, and woodland (UNESCO, 2014). The World Heritage site covers 54,252 ha. The site supports important populations of threatened species and is the most important wintering site for waterfowl in Spain (UNESCO, 2014). Whilst there has been a history of ecosystem conversion (drainage of over half the marshes for agriculture and destruction of over half the cork tree forests), use has also been made of the natural ecosystems, including for grazing cattle, fishing, hunting, harvesting of wetland vegetation and tourism (UNESCO, 2014). However, some of this activity is not sustainable and current issues include poaching, over-grazing and illegal exploitation of crayfish.

The local economy

Until 1930 the population of the area was small, and the wetland ecosystems were largely intact, supporting a small-scale subsistence economy (EEA, 2010). Over the following 50-60 years agriculture expanded in the area as a result of drainage and irrigation schemes, forest plantations were established to supply the production of wood and pulp, and urban development for coastal tourism occurred on the edge of the park (EEA, 2010). This has been offset by investment in the area, such as marsh restoration and habitat management schemes. In addition, the Doñana National Park and the Environment Department of the Andalusian Government have invested resources in efforts to control invasive species (€3.7 million over the last 20 years (EEA, 2010)). Funds have also been spent on research (e.g. the Spanish Geology and Mines Institute has invested €1.9 million over the last several years on research of the aquifer (EEA, 2010)).

Type of economic analysis undertaken

The approach adopted for the economic analysis of Doñana (EEA, 2010) involved the collation of existing studies. Depending on the ecosystem service concerned, the studies had used either market price or contingent valuation methods. The sources used included the Agriculture and Fisheries Statistics Yearbook of Andalusia, Annual Reports of Activities of Doñana National Park, as well as a small number of research papers.

Main findings from the study

The total value of the ecosystem services delivered by the site was estimated to be €570 million a year (for 2006), which equates to US$ 7,845 per ha a year (in 2013 values). To put this value of the site (€570 million) into local context, it is equivalent to one-third of the annual budget for the Spanish Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Environment, covering the whole country (SEPG, 2013). The most valuable marketed ecosystem services are food (agriculture followed by fisheries). As for the non-marketed ecosystem services, landscape beauty is valued more highly than the regulating services. Table 7 reports the original values as well as the 2013 US$ values for the main ecosystem services the study explored.

Table 7. Annual value of ecosystem services and benefits from the Doñana National Park. Source: EEA, 2010

Ecosystem service categories (2013) Total annual value (2006 € million) Total annual value US$
Food production - crops 240 363
Food production - cattle 69 104
Food production - crayfish 3 5
Food production - marine fisheries 11 17
Food production - estuary fisheries 13 20
Other provisioning 2 3
Cultural (aesthetic only) 86 130
Recreation/tourism 64 97
Regulating services 26 39

General conclusions from the case study

The approach adopted here involves a review of existing literature to derive values for both marketed and non-marketed ecosystem services. As such it relies on the existence of reports and studies that have examined ecosystem services for that area. The approach is relatively simple and low-cost, but it is unlikely that relevant studies exist for most World Heritage sites. It also means that there will be unfilled gaps in the literature, where some ecosystem services are left unvalued. Further, such studies do not provide useful information on where ecosystem services are mutually incompatible, or how management might change to minimize trade-offs between ecosystem service provision. Nevertheless the current value of the existing use of ecosystem services at a site is still useful for raising awareness to decision makers of the importance of a site.