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The economic value of river landscapes for recreational useA willingness-to-pay study in four regions in Germany

River landscapes including rivers, streams and surrounding floodplains are of great importance for local recreation. Especially their high degree of biodiversity and structural diversity result in high recreational and experiential value. Within the concept of ecosystem services, human interaction with a river landscape for the purpose of recreation is classified as cultural service. Knowledge of the societal value of this cultural ecosystem service can make an important contribution to the decision-making process of the design of river landscapes.

The aim of the present study is to collect empirical data on recreational use and the valuation of river landscapes in Germany and to derive willingness-to-pay estimates for different development alternatives. In two research projects, around 4,000 people were questioned regarding their current use of rivers and streams for recreational purposes within a representative survey. The regional focus of this study is set on small rivers or streams in the state of Saxony, as well as on the major rivers Danube, Nahe and Aller. The use of choice experiments, a survey-based method for assessing individual preferences, enables the estimation of the importance of individual characteristics of a river landscape for the valuation and recreational site choice. Different measures are considered with regard to river banks, to the use of floodplains, and to the accessibility of the river and infrastructure developments.

Taking into account different rivers allows a comparison of the recreational determinants of large and small waters. The respondents express a high appreciation for an increased naturalness of river banks and floodplains with willingness-to-pay values of more than 120 € per household and year. In contrast, further infrastructural development (cycle tracks, hiking trails) is valuated very differently by users and non-users.

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