Environmental Conservation

THEMATIC SECTION: Payments for Ecosystem Services in Conservation: Performance and Prospects

Evaluating the environmental impact of payments for ecosystem services in Coatepec (Mexico) using remote sensing and on-site interviews

JASON SCULLIONa1 c1, CRAIG W. THOMASa2, KRISTINA A. VOGTa1, OCTAVIO PÉREZ-MAQUEOa3 and MILES G. LOGSDONa4

a1 School of Forest Resources. University of Washington, Box 352100, Seattle, WA 98195-2100, USA

a2 Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

a3 Environment and Sustainability Network, Instituto de Ecología, AC Veracruz, Mexico

a4 School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

SUMMARY

Over the last decade, hundreds of payments for ecosystem services (PES) programmes have been initiated around the world, but evidence of their environmental benefits remains limited. In this study, two PES programmes operating in the municipality of Coatepec (Mexico) were evaluated to assess their effectiveness in protecting the region's endangered upland forests. Landsat satellite data were analysed to assess changes in forest cover before and after programme implementation using a difference-in-differences estimator. Additionally, surveys and interviews were conducted with local residents and a subset of PES programme participants to evaluate the programmes’ social and environmental impacts, particularly the effect of the programmes on landowner behaviour. The remote-sensing data show that deforestation was substantially lower on properties receiving PES payments compared to properties not enrolled in the programmes, but the programmes did not prevent the net loss of forests within Coatepec. Moreover, the on-site interviews suggest that the payments may have had little impact on deforestation rates, and that other factors contributed to the conservation of forests in PES properties. These findings suggest that risk-targeted payments, robust monitoring and enforcement programmes, and additional conservation initiatives should be included in all PES schemes to ensure environmental effectiveness.

(Received October 30 2010)

(Accepted August 30 2011)

(Online publication November 03 2011)

Correspondence

c1 Correspondence: Mr Jason Scullion e-mail: scullion@uw.edu