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Could Payments for Ecosystem Services Create an "Ecosystem Service Curse"?

Jakub Kronenberg, Department of International Economics, Faculty of Economics and Sociology, University of Lodz
Klaus Hubacek, Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park


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Payments for ecosystem services (PES) have received much praise and are increasingly perceived as a promising tool to ensure the protection of global ecosystems as well as being able to help alleviate poverty in areas rich in ecosystem services. Given current trends, the scale of payments is likely to grow, creating new circumstances within which ecosystem services will be managed. In this dynamic context, following a precautionary approach, one should focus on establishing systems to handle the risks involved. Based on an analogy to resources that have long been included in the system of market transactions, we suggest that the rapid development of PES can negatively influence regional and potentially national economies. Resource revenues are highly correlated with economic problems in poor countries that are not able to use those revenues to ensure sound development. Problems similar to those that affect resource-rich countries may emerge in the case of economies rich in ecosystem services once PES increase in spatial and monetary scale. The most prominent examples of such problems include rent seeking, unequal bargaining power of buyers and sellers, volatility of payments, which are all related to the quality of institutions. To ensure the long-term positive impacts of PES, such systems should be carefully designed paying particular attention to distribution of property rights and transparency, decentralization of revenues, and capacity building to ensure further development opportunities.

Key words

aid curse; ecosystem services; global PES; payments for ecosystem services; PES; resource curse

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087