Sem Duijndam, Junior Researcher at IVM, won the VU Master Thesis Award for the best master thesis written at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the previous academic year

He was awarded this prize at the VU New Year’s Gala, which was held last Thursday. Besides the honour and an award, he also won €2000.

01/29/2020 | 12:55 PM

Sem’s thesis title was: ‘Managing coastal lagoon ecosystems in the Caribbean: An economic appraisal of nature-based versus man-made solutions for enhancing ecosystem service provisioning by the Simpson Bay Lagoon, Saint Martin’. Sem wrote this thesis for the master in Environment and Resource Management and was supervised by Pieter van Beukering. In his thesis research he conducted an economic valuation of the Simpson Bay Lagoon in Saint Martin, as its undervaluation currently contributes to the ecological degradation of the lagoon. He performed a choice experiment and value transfer to accomplish this valuation. Besides the valuation, he also applied an extended cost-benefit analysis of alternative environmental management scenarios to assess if the economic benefits of improved environmental management outweigh their costs. He evaluated three environmental management scenarios: business as usual, the construction of a sewage treatment plant, and mangrove restoration. 

His thesis has shown that the current annual total economic value of the Lagoon is nearly $20 million and could increase with a mangrove restoration and sewage treatment plant scenario to $28 or $31 million, respectively. The cost-benefit analysis has revealed that the environmental management scenarios always economically outperform the business-as-usual scenario, even under stringent assumptions. With these results, his thesis has further illustrated the (economic) benefits of nature protection. Especially for small island states, such as Saint Martin, which are highly vulnerable to (future) climate change impacts, it is of vital importance to have well-functioning ecosystems that boost these islands’ resilience against future extreme events. The findings of this study do not just lie on the shelf, but are already actively used by local organizations to push for better environmental management on Saint Martin. Furthermore, the findings of the study have been personally handed over to the Minister of Environment of Saint Martin and have been prominent in the local news. The large uptake of his work by the local community and authorities promises that his thesis will have a lasting impact on nature conservation in Sint Maarten.

Advalvas held an interview with Sem (in Dutch), which can be accessed here: https://www.advalvas.vu.nl/nieuws/onderzoek-naar-vervuilde-baai-op-sint-maarten-wint-scriptieprijs