Esteve Corbera Elizalde

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) have become a mainstream policy approach that provide conditional incentives for forest conservation in many tropical and sub-tropical countries. PES short-term effects on avoided deforestation are well-documented, but there is very limited knowledge about their effectiveness when participation is sustained over time. This article is one of the first attempts to measure the impact of consecutive renewals of PES contracts on deforestation and forest degradation, over a ten-year period. Our analysis focuses on the Lacandon rainforest, Chiapas, Mexico, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots currently threatened by land conversion for cattle grazing. We demonstrate that PES reduced deforestation both after a single 5- year contract and after two consecutive contracts, but the impacts are only detectable in higher deforestation-risk parcels. Enrolment duration increases PES impact in these parcels, which suggests a positive cumulative effect over time. These findings also suggest that improved spatial targeting and longer- term enrolment are key enabling conservation factors in agricultural frontiers and, more broadly, that economic incentives can be a complementary and effective conservation policy approach where such rewards align with local development needs and priorities.