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What happens when one no longer gets ecosystem services payments?

As programs of payment for ecosystem or environmental services (PES) are rising in number, there is a need to understand effects of PES on providers’ motivations and, in turn, behaviors.  ‘Crowding in’ of pro-environmental motivations is possible − although a significant literature has expressed concern with the ‘crowding out’ of such motivations by external interventions. Yet empirical research is scarce concerning any such ‘crowding’ by PES − in either direction. Theoretical hopes and concerns are clear but, to date, the related empirical evidence is limited.

This project is an innovative field study of decision experiments alongside a motivations survey of rural forest owners in Colombia - a country contemplating a significant expansion of PES.

We are motivated by the fact that PES programs are unlikely to pay all of the possible providers of ecosystem services nor, pay participants forever.  What happens when payments end? Does it matter if they end for only some of the recipients? And for each question, do results differ if payments are made on an individual or collective basis?

This new research will help us to inform the policy processes for PES design and implementation within Colombia. More broadly, our results can inform resource allocations in many countries considering related policy, given the commonalities of agricultural expansion alongside growing and multi-faceted interests in maintaining our standing forests. We can disseminate what we see as key PES design issues as well as ways to study them and, thereby, contribute to guidelines for successful applied conservation approaches and to the related academic literature within experimental environmental / natural-resource economics.