Payments for Ecosystem Services: A Short Introduction

Jan 1, 2010
Our natural environment provides many different kinds of services that contribute to our wellbeing and economic prosperity, from provision of timber and other natural resources, to regulating systems such as carbon storage in soils or water regulation to opportunities for recreation. The fact that these services are often not valued or considered in decision-making is a key factor affecting ecosystem loss and degradation. Against this background, there has been a growing interest in mechanisms that can better recognise the value of ecosystem services in practice; payments for ecosystem services (PES) constitutes one such innovative approach.

PES can be defined in terms of payments to undertake actions that increase the levels of desired ecosystem services, and can therefore be broadly defined within market-based approaches. PES provides some key opportunities to link up those involved in 'supplying' ecosystem services more closely to those benefiting from the same ecosystem services and in doing so, potentially provide cost-effective ways of developing new streams of financing. This requires considerable innovation as, for many ecosystem services, both 'suppliers' and 'beneficiaries' may not currently be aware of their roles.

This paper describes work in progress regarding payments for ecosystem services and its application to a domestic context and seeks to stimulate discussion about this topic.

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