Payments for Water Ecosystem Services in Latin America: Evidence from Reported Experience
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Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes are attracting increasing interest as policy mechanisms to improve conservation and sustainable development outcomes. PES initiatives aim to reach mutually beneficial agreements between providers and users of ecosystem services. In Latin America, with Costa Rica as the frontrunner, there are now more than two decades of experience in the implementation of PES schemes, which potentially represent a valuable source of knowledge for the improvement of the efficacy of conservation programs. Reviews and special issues dedicated to the study of PES exist, but they remain to most of their extent descriptive and qualitative. This paper presents the first study that systematically analyses the PES experience on the basis of a descriptive analysis of existing programs. The objective is twofold: (i) understanding the key features of existing PES mechanisms based on reported evidence; and (ii) identifying information needs for evidence-based policy design and implementation. We focus on water-related services since this type of service is involved in the majority of schemes. A database was constructed with 287 observations from 39 studies, from 1984 to 2011 in 10 Latin American countries. We find evidence confirming some known facts, such as deforestation and forest management as the main drivers of PES establishment, and revealing new ones, such as that average income for sellers is 60% larger than average buyersâ€™ payment for the service.