Can payments for watershed services help save biodiversity? A spatial analysis of highland Guatemala
Payments for environmental services (PES) are a promising mechanism for conservation. PES could either provide additional funding for protected areas, pay land users to conserve biodiversity outside protected areas, or both. For PES to work, it requires a secure long-term source of financing. Obtaining payments directly for biodiversity conservation is difficult, however. In most cases, water users are the most likely such source, either directly or indirectly. Thus the potential for PES to help conserve biodiversity depends, in a large measure, on the degree to which areas of interest for conservation of water services overlap with areas of interest for conservation of biodiversity. This paper examines the extent of such overlap in the case of highland Guatemala. The results show that this potential varies substantially within the country, with some biodiversity conservation priority areas having very good potential for receiving payments, and others little or none. Overall, about a quarter of all biodiversity conservation priority areas have potential for receiving payments. Thus PES is far from being a silver bullet for biodiversity conservation, but it can make a meaningful contribution to this objective.
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