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.



Highland Guatemala is defined as the part of the country that excludes the Petén region.


The discussion of PES focuses solely on its use in developing countries.


A hotel in the Guanacaste area is paying for watershed conservation, but it is doing so to protect its water supplies, as it is a major water user (Pagiola, 2008). To date, no tourism sector company is paying specifically for scenic beauty or biodiversity conservation.


To the extent that some tourism operators are paying for the conservation of areas greater than those visited, as is to some degree the case in Ecuador's Cuyabeno Reserve (Wunder, 2000) or in Zimbabwe's CAMPFIRE programme (Frost & Bond, 2008), they might be considered to be partially PES.


Examples of such projects include the Mexico Environmental Services and the Brazil Espirito Santo Biodiversity and Watershed Restoration projects (under implementation), and the Colombia Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Sustainable Cattle Ranching project (under preparation).


Examples include Quito's FONAG, which provides financing to the Antisana and Cayambe Coca reserves (Echavarría, 2002a); the San Francisco de Menéndez community in El Salvador, which helps pay for conservation in El Imposible National Park (Herrador et al., 2002); and small communities near the Pico Bonito National Park in Honduras, who pay to conserve their water sources within the park (EcoLogic, 2006).


Some sources give different numbers of PAs. The discrepancy mainly arises from whether PA complexes that include a core zone, various multiple use zones, and a buffer zone are counted as a single PA or several separate ones.


For example, Wendland et al. (forthcoming) use a map of population density to develop a map of areas that are important for water quality.


See Pagiola et al. (2007) for additional details.


This map differs slightly from the watershed map produced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Nutrition (MAGA), but the differences are too small to materially affect the results of this analysis. Neither the MAGA map nor Nelson and Chomitz's map would be detailed enough to allow planning of specific mechanisms.


In addition, many industrial users rely on wells, and so are outside the scope of our analysis.


Unfortunately, there is no way to gauge the extent of the underestimation.


PROARCA's map provides a more comprehensive coverage of Guatemala's PA system than the map currently available from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre's (UNEP-WCMC) World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA).


IUCN's protected area categories are: Ia: Strict Nature Reserve (managed mainly for science); Ib: Wilderness Area (managed mainly for wilderness protection); II: National Park (managed mainly for ecosystem protection and recreation); III: Natural Monument (managed mainly for conservation of specific natural features); IV: Habitat/Species Management Area (managed mainly for conservation through management intervention); V: Protected Landscape/Seascape (managed mainly for landscape/seascape conservation and recreation); and VI: Managed Resource Protected Area (managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems).


There are minor discrepancies in the management categories of PAs given in the PROARCA and WCMC maps. For instance, Laguna Lachuá National Park is shown as a category I area in the PROARCA map but as a category II area in the WCMC map. Whenever such discrepancies arise, we used the PROARCA classification.


As can be seen in Figure 1, WSAs for different water uses sometimes overlap. When the two WSAs are of different value, we use the higher-value category.


Fortunately, the area's high profile has enabled it to attract other support, including a share of a US$24 million debt-for-nature swap with the US Government that was facilitated by The Nature Conservancy in 2006. Other areas may not be so fortunate.


An additional US$5 million would be channelled directly to PA budgets.


In theory, it is possible that some PWS could endanger biodiversity. If the over-riding objective in a particular case were to increase total water yield from a watershed, then reducing forest cover might be one way of achieving this (Aylward et al., 1999; Bruijnzeel, 2004). Total water yield is rarely the main concern, however; dry season flow or water quality are much more common concerns (Pagiola & Platais, 2007). In any case, as deforestation is illegal in most countries, such a PWS mechanism is unlikely to be implemented.


Some industrial users, such as bottlers, may likewise prize water quality. In France, for example, Vittel pays farmers not to use pesticides and other agrochemicals in the recharge areas of its springs (Perrot-Maître, 2006).


We do not have access to a recent forest cover map of Guatemala, and so cannot determine to what extent areas within PAs, their buffer zones, and the biological corridors that connect them might potentially be eligible for REDD payments.


The converse situation of WSAs being fully or almost fully contained within a PA is also potentially interesting. Although in this situation water payments could help conserve only part of the PA, they might be especially easy to arrange, as the transaction costs of negotiating and then implementing payments would be low, given that a single ‘provider’ is involved (the PA itself). This does not apply, however, to cases in which there are substantial populations living within the PA.

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