Characteristics that influence valuation of ecosystem services and environmental worldview in the Great Bay watershed

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El-Naboulsi, Nour
The Great Bay watershed in coastal New Hampshire is a site of cultural significance, economic use, and various natural resources. As a result of pressure from increased population and development the watershed has been experiencing degradation in recent decades. Residents of the state and the watershed itself have expressed concern ecosystem services and are in favor of taking action to ensure their protection. Our research team was tasked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with linking the health of the Great Bay watershed to water quality indicators, ecosystem services, and human preferences as a way of investigating its value. We examined residents' value of ecosystem services provided by the watershed, as well as what demographic and geographic characteristics may have affected their valuation. We also assessed these characteristics in comparison to their environmental attitudes, beliefs, and worldview through use of the New Ecological Paradigm scale. We hypothesized that the value of different ecosystem services would differ among the residents, and that their personal characteristics would affect their valuation. We undertook this research through a combination of literature review, a survey of residents within the Great Bay watershed, spatial analyses of characteristics associated with the location of respondents, and statistical analyses of observed valuation. We found that nearly 92% of respondent encompassed a pro-environmental worldview and that they valued the drinking water and wildlife habitat ecosystem services significantly more than the flood protection and swimming ecosystem services. We also found that prior level of knowledge, childhood community type, and distance to conserved areas of land were significant influencers of certain ecosystem services or placement on the New Ecological Paradigm scale. We recommend that future work on investigate different survey methods and address respondent value of ecosystem services through the use of open-ended response questions.