ECONOMIC VALUATION OF THE CORALES DE PROFUNDIDAD NATIONAL NATURAL PARK
Deep-sea corals, also called cold-water corals, provide a variety of ecosystem services, including habitat for numerous species and being a source of biodiversity. Despite their importance, these ecosystems are under threat because of trawling and exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons. According to the gap analysis conducted by the Institute of Marine and Coastal Research of Colombia (Invemar), during the first decade of the XXI century in Colombia, less than 2% of the known deep coral coverage was found under some category of conservation inside the System of National Natural Parks. In 2013, the Corales de Profundidad National Natural Park was established, and it is located in the Colombian Caribbean Sea, next to the departments of Córdoba, Sucre and Bolivar, close to the Corales del Rosario and San Bernardo National Natural Park. The biological knowledge of these ecosystems is new, as well as the importance of these ecosystems expressed in economic and social terms. Carrying out an exercise that captures the economic value of ecosystem services provided by deep-sea corals in the new national park becomes relevant. The objective of this study is to make a first approach to estimate this value. Given the difficulty of accessing these ecosystems, the benefits provided by them are not directly tangible and are not revealed through markets. In fact, the provided services are related to benefits not associated with direct use (non-use values, such as option and existence values, and indirect use values). Stated preference methods are used to estimate the economic value associated with this type of services; with these methods the strategy is to create a hypothetical scenario and ask respondents to reveal their willingness to pay for the feasibility of these conservation scenarios. The contingent valuation method is the chosen one, whose main instrument for information collection is household surveys. The average estimated willingness to pay per household is around US$58 (110000 COP using the average exchange rate for the third quarter of 2014, when data was collected, COP/USD: 1878) per year. Based on these results, it is possible to calculate the willingness to pay for the entire population of the study, Bogotá citizens. This value is around US$95 million annually (178 billion COP per year). When this value is compared with the budget assigned to this national park, the latter represents less than 1% of the economic value associated with the flow of benefits generated by the park. The lack of resources assigned to this area becomes evident as well as the need to identify and implement alternative funding sources to ensure financial sustainability of the park
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