Can Payments for Watershed Services Help Finance Biodiversity Conservation? A Spatial Analysis of Highland Guatemala

Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research, Volume 2, Issue 1 January 2010 , pages 7 – 24

Stefano Pagiola, Wei Zhang, and Ale Colom

“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. PES require a secure long-term source of financing to work effectively. Obtaining payments directly for biodiversity conservation is difficult, however. In most cases, water users are the most likely 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 an 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 are far from being a silver bullet for biodiversity conservation, but they can make a meaningful contribution to this objective.”