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Preference Assessment

Aim of the resource

The motivation for using this method is the requirement to understand which services are in highest demand (or valued most) in a particular context (or the ones that are socially perceived as the most vulnerable). This approach could be helpful to: (i) demonstrate the social importance of ecosystem services, (ii) set priorities within management strategies (e.g. working first on those services characterized as highly vulnerable but highly demanded) within the context of the ecological status of other ecosystem services (declining, stable or improving); (iii) to understand the multiple needs of different stakeholders and, in doing so, anticipate potential social conflicts derived from policy decisions affecting different ecosystem services.

Using the resource
Potential benefits from using the resource
It assesses a range of ecosystem services at the same time, and could be used for all different service categories;
It can provide robust quantitative information (from a representative sample)
It avoids incommensurability issues resulting from the assignation of monetary value to service properties that cannot be monetarily measured
The standardisation of the questions included could promote comparability with other case studies
It is generally used with an emphasis on individual perceptions (but collective preferences can be also gathered)
Potential limitations from using the resource
Preference assessment captures a point in time, not a trend. In addition, sometimes, extra qualitative information is needed to understand the reasons behind the responses given;
Key stakeholders can be ignored if the surveys focus on characteristics which are relevant for a very limited percentage of the population.
Answers focused on the contribution of ecosystem service to an individual respondents’ human wellbeing fails to take into account shared and social values of ecosystem services
Scale of application:
Practical information
UN languages in which the resource is available:
Development stage:
Full, working product
Contact details
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Preference assessment is a direct and quantitative consultative method for analyzing perceptions, knowledge and associated values of ecosystem service demand or use (or even social motivations for maintaining the service) without using economic metrics. It can also be used to understand which ecosystem services are perceived as the most vulnerable, or which make the greatest contribution to human wellbeing. Data is collected through surveys using a consultative approach. Preference assessment is a useful approach for identifying relevant services from different stakeholder perspectives with diverging interest or needs. Its application can help to uncover differences and similarities in preferences between different social groups in terms of ecosystem service demands.


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