Reduction in Lyme Disease Risk as an Economic Benefit of Habitat Restoration


K. LoGiudice, email


Habitat restoration is costly and it is often necessary to justify the costs with evidence of benefits to society. These benefits are difficult to quantify because they are measured in terms of ecosystem services rather than currency. This paper introduces a somewhat novel restoration-related ecosystem service, a reduction in the risk of tick-borne disease, and incorporates it into a cost/benefit analysis of the restoration of a rare habitat. We use a cost-of-illness study to calculate the costs averted by preventing Lyme disease (LD), and a contingent-valuation survey to estimate the benefit of biodiversity protection. The restoration, removal of an invasive tree, reduced the risk of LD by approximately 98%. Cost-of-illness studies show that the restoration would be financially justifiable if it averted 75 cases of LD per year. Given the local LD rate and the visitation rate to the preserve, the habitat restoration can plausibly be justified solely on the benefit of LD cases averted. However, as we do not know how many cases of LD are contracted in the preserve, we also establish the perceived value of protecting biodiversity in a contingent-valuation survey. Results show that residents were willing to pay a significant fraction of the net cost of restoration to protect biodiversity. When these benefits are taken into account, the number of cases of disease that must be averted to justify remediation is reduced. This exercise spotlights an underappreciated ecosystem service that, when appropriate, can help establish the cost effectiveness of restoration.