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No. 378: Proposals to improve the Ministry of Environment and Food's key figures for the recreational value of nature

Zandersen, M. Abay, A.T., Termansen, M. 2020. Forslag til forbedring af Miljø- og Fødevareministeriets nøgletal for den rekreative værdi af natur. Aarhus Universitet, DCE – Nationalt Center for Miljø og Energi, 38 s. - Videnskabelig rapport nr. 378 http://dce2.au.dk/pub/SR378.pdf



The purpose of the present report is to suggest an improvement of the existing ’default’ look-up value for the recreational value of nature in Denmark. The existing look-up value for the recreational value of nature in Denmark is included in the Environmental Look-Up Value Catalogue (Nøgletalskatalog) developed by the Ministry of Environment and Food (latest version described in COWI 2014, dated 12 December 2014), and it is applicable for socio-economic analyses related to the environment and nature in Denmark.

Monetary valuation related to recreation can be used to assess if initiatives, e.g. acquisition of private land for reforestation or establishment of recreational areas in new urban developments, lead to net socioeconomic benefits. Accordingly, the results of valuation studies are relevant as an argument for allocating funds for establishing or extending nature areas in and around urban areas. Following increased urbanization, the pressure on existing urban nature areas intensifies and the demand for more recreational areas increases. New nature areas may also benefit society in terms of improved protection of drinking water reserves, carbon sequestration, and retention and purification of nutrient rich surface water. These benefits, however, are not included in the present report.

The existing look-up value for the recreational value of nature in Denmark is derived from a national and spatially specific travel cost model (Bjørner and Termansen, 2014) developed on the basis of a national survey of the populations use of nature areas in 2013 (Bjørner et al., 2014). The look-up value is calculated as the simple average of the economic value of access per area per year, converted into the economic value per hectare per year. The value is reported both as a national average and for geographical regions (regions and municipalities). The current look-up value does not reflect the average value of a marginal increase in recreational opportunities. Thus, the average value is expected to span a wide interval of values even when disregarding differences in attractiveness of areas for recreational activities.

The report describes ReCreateEcon, a new estimation of the previous national travel cost model. The estimation is based on a new model specification and the original data is supplemented with new data concerning area characteristics.  The model estimates the monetary value of access to nature areas for the Danish population, and the value estimates are used as input to a benefit transfer function.  The function can be used by public authorities, e.g. municipalities, to obtain a relatively quick and simple estimate of the recreational values of new nature areas or the value of expanding existing nature areas.

The benefit transfer function, ReCreateEcon, is developed as a user-friendly Excel-based tool. The benefit transfer function considers the local population density and alternative recreational opportunities (substitution effects), as well as the attractiveness of the different individual areas. The level of attractiveness depends on the preferences of the population for different nature area characteristics, e.g. size, nature type, infrastructure, proximity to coasts and ownership of forests (public vs. private).

ReCreateEcon does not include tourism (i.e. trips lasting more than one day) and consequently the value estimates for nature areas located in municipalities with a high level of tourism activity are underestimated. This is seen by comparing the map showing the attractiveness of nature areas (Figure 3.1) with the map showing the value of access to nature areas for recreational purposes (excluding tourism) (Figure 2.1). Thus, Figure 3.1 shows how the nature areas along the West Coast are among the top 25 % percentile, while Figure 2.1 shows how the same areas, due to long distances to population centers, have a relatively low recreational value.

The benefit transfer function adequately explains the variance in the recreational value of nature areas; this is seen by an R2 of 66 %. The explanatory variables in the function are attractiveness, availability of alternative recreational areas in the area, and population density.

The benefit transfer function is available as an Excel based tool where users can enter data from a specific project area in two steps (See box 3.1). The type of input data requires relatively simple GIS analyses and access to data layers related to nature areas and the population in the vicinity of the project area.

To make results available at a spatially specific level, and to improve the applicability of the tool, it is recommended that a WebGIS is developed that contains information that eases the use of the benefit transfer function. In this way, users will have access to a map of Denmark, where it is possible to zoom in on specific nature areas and obtain the following information on the 2474 nature areas included in the study:

  • Evalues of access from ReCreateEcon;
  • Attractiveness-scores;
  • Spatially specific data on alternative recreation opportunities; and
  • Population density.