Urban forests provide various benefits including provision of habitats for wildlife, clean air, controlling runaway water, climate mitigation, scenic beauty and opportunities for citizens to enjoy nature in their leisure time. To meet the increasing demand for environmental services from forests in urban areas, central and local governments have introduced various policies to expand quantity and to improve quality of urban forests. Governments need to have information on the values of providing ecosystems services when they plan to expand and manage urban forests. Many policies are more concerned with changing the attribute level rather than losing or gaining environmental good as whole. In that sense, Choice Experiment (CE) method, which can consider attributes of environmental goods as policy alternatives, is a suitable method for evaluating the effect of urban forest policy alternatives. There have been many researches on valuing environmental goods by applying CE. There are, however, few researches addressing how the citizens’ willingness to pay for ecosystems services of urban forests differs by demographic characteristics. In this paper, the MWTPs of citizens will be compared according to respondent’s socio-economic characteristics by adding variables for the interaction between level of payment and personal characteristics. We sampled 823 citizens living urban areas in Korea and interviewed face to face in 2009. The questions on whether he or she would pay for additional tax in order to increase budget for urban forest management contingent to the level of biodiversity, environmental educational services, and location of new urban woodlands to be expanded, etc.
The data were statistically analyzed using mixed logit model without IIA assumptions. The results reveal that, on average, urban dwellers in S. Korea would pay 1.44 US dollars more per visit to urban forests additionally if the level of biodiversity is improved one level. In the case of Seoul, this means that the city Government can justify the investment in biodiversity for urban forest management at least 203 million US dollars per annum. Citizens’ MWTPs for biodiversity improvement differ, ranging from 0.94 to 5.44 US dollars, according to their sex, marriage status, and level of education. A married, male citizen of small and medium size city without university degree would pay more than a female, unmarried of metropolitan citizen with university degree. This suggests that urban forests policy of local governments should consider demography of local area in order to maximize the benefits of urban forests to citizens.