Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 1081–1088 | Cite as

Economic valuation of kelp forests in northern Chile: values of goods and services of the ecosystem

  • Julio A. VásquezEmail author
  • Sergio Zuñiga
  • Fadia Tala
  • Nicole Piaget
  • Deni C. Rodríguez
  • J. M. Alonso Vega


Kelp beds, besides being one of the most important benthic resources in northern Chile, provide a variety of environmental goods and services. In order to evaluate economically the wild kelp populations in northern Chile (26° to 32° S) more than simply their commercial value as a source of raw materials for alginate extraction, we used several economic indicators to holistically assess the value of a group of brown seaweeds of economic importance, Lessonia spp. and Macrocystis pyrifera: (1) market value of biomass as a source of raw material for extraction of alginic acid, (2) market value of associated species of economic importance, (3) value as a source of scientific information, (4) value as a climate buffer (CO2 capture and release of O2), (5) value of associated biodiversity (non-commercial species), (6) value as cultural heritage and (7) value as a reservoir of biodiversity. Existence values of kelp beds which estimate the willingness of citizens to pay and work without payment to preserve the ecosystem were calculated using the contingent valuation technique. The results indicate that kelp beds in northern Chile have a total value of US $540 million. Of this total, kelp fishery accounts for 75 % and associated-species fisheries account for 15 %. In this context, the economic value of Chilean kelp beds is mainly associated with the industry of alginate extraction. By contrast, existence value as a source of scientific information or environmental buffer for CO2 capture or O2 production represents only 9 % of the total value, representing a very low relative importance to society. The economic valuation of coastal resources and marine ecosystems is a complementary tool for decision making and implementation of public policies related to the conservation and sustainable exploitation of renewable resources and their ecosystems.


Kelp fishery Phaeophyta Administrative policies Ecosystem goods and services Conservation Economic value 



We thank Fondo de Investigación Pesquera FIP-Chile for supporting the project FIP 2005-32 to JAV. JMAV thanks CONICYT Chile for scholarship in the PhD Program in Biology and Applied Ecology, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar, Universidad Católica del Norte. Useful suggestion made by an anonymous reviewer significantly improves this contribution.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julio A. Vásquez
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sergio Zuñiga
    • 4
  • Fadia Tala
    • 1
  • Nicole Piaget
    • 1
  • Deni C. Rodríguez
    • 5
  • J. M. Alonso Vega
    • 3
  1. 1.Departamento de Biología MarinaUniversidad Católica del NorteCoquimboChile
  2. 2.Center for Advanced Studies in Arid Zones (CEAZA)Universidad Católica del NorteCoquimboChile
  3. 3.Programa de Doctorado en Biología y Ecología AplicadaUniversidad Católica del NorteCoquimboChile
  4. 4.Escuela de Ingeniería ComercialUniversidad Católica del NorteCoquimboChile
  5. 5.Departamento de Biología Comparada, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico

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