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Spatial targeting of payments for environmental services: A tool for boosting conservation benefits


  • Wünscher, Tobias
  • Engel, Stefanie
  • Wunder, Sven


Payments for environmental services (PES) have become an increasingly popular market-based instrument to translate external, non-market environmental services into financial incentives for landowners to preserve the ecosystems that provide the services. However, lack of spatial differentiation in the targeting mechanism may lead to efficiency losses. Addressing this challenge, we construct an applied site selection tool, which takes into account three variables that vary in space: environmental services provided, risks of losing those services, and participation costs. Using data from Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula, we empirically test the tool's potential to increase the financial efficiency of the forest-focused PES program in place. Results show that, given a fixed budget, efficiency increases radically if per hectare payments are aligned to landowners' heterogeneity in participation costs, involving opportunity, transaction and direct costs of protection, respectively. Selecting sites based on environmental service potential also moderately increases efficiency. Overall additionality could in the best case be doubled, but remains generally limited due to current low deforestation risks prevailing in Costa Rica. To take advantage of the high efficiency potentials of flexible payments, we propose inverse auction systems as a cost-effective approach for the determination of micro-level participation costs.

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  • Wünscher, Tobias & Engel, Stefanie & Wunder, Sven, 2008. "Spatial targeting of payments for environmental services: A tool for boosting conservation benefits," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(4), pages 822-833, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:65:y:2008:i:4:p:822-833

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Muñoz-Piña, Carlos & Guevara, Alejandro & Torres, Juan Manuel & Braña, Josefina, 2008. "Paying for the hydrological services of Mexico's forests: Analysis, negotiations and results," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(4), pages 725-736, May.
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    5. Paul J. Ferraro, 2004. "Targeting Conservation Investments in Heterogeneous Landscapes: A Distance-Function Approach and Application to Watershed Management," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 86(4), pages 905-918.
    6. Pagiola, Stefano, 2008. "Payments for environmental services in Costa Rica," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(4), pages 712-724, May.
    7. Pfaff, Alexander S. P. & Sanchez-Azofeifa, G. Arturo, 2004. "Deforestation pressure and biological reserve planning: a conceptual approach and an illustrative application for Costa Rica," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 237-254, June.
    8. Pagiola, Stefano & Arcenas, Agustin & Platais, Gunars, 2005. "Can Payments for Environmental Services Help Reduce Poverty? An Exploration of the Issues and the Evidence to Date from Latin America," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 237-253, February.
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    11. Turpie, J.K. & Marais, C. & Blignaut, J.N., 2008. "The working for water programme: Evolution of a payments for ecosystem services mechanism that addresses both poverty and ecosystem service delivery in South Africa," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(4), pages 788-798, May.
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    13. Claassen, Roger & Cattaneo, Andrea & Johansson, Robert, 2008. "Cost-effective design of agri-environmental payment programs: U.S. experience in theory and practice," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(4), pages 737-752, May.
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