Paper recommendation: Social equity matters in payments for ecosystem services

By Joern Fischer

I recommend the following paper: Social equity matters in payments for ecosystem services. Pascual U, Phelps J, Garmendia E, Brown K, Corbera E, Martin A, Gomez-Baggethun E, Muradian RBioscience 2014 Oct 1, DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biu146 (available via the journal homepage)

Equity considerations are increasingly seen as an important challenge in sustainability science. This paper by Pascual and colleagues highlights the importance of equity considerations in an ecosystem services context. The most prominent tool used to enhance the provision of ecosystem services is that of payments. This focus on payments, in turn, is heavily influenced by efficiency considerations derived from economic theory.

Pascual et al. make three important points. First, economic-theory driven, efficiency-focused schemes for payments for ecosystem services may bear little resemblance to the (messy) real world of policy implementation.

Second, the lack of consideration of equity (in terms of distribution, procedures, and context) can have negative repercussions for the effectiveness of payments for ecosystem service schemes.

Third, by considering equity, the effectiveness of such schemes can be improved. This suggests that equity considerations are not only of moral value in their own right; but also have instrumental value in that they may help improve ecological outcomes.

This paper is a must-read for all ecologists working on ecosystem services, because it makes the important (but under-recognised) point that successful governance of ecosystem services is much more than simply combining ecological data with economic theory.


3 thoughts on “Paper recommendation: Social equity matters in payments for ecosystem services

  1. Dear Joern

    Thank you very much for highlighting our recent paper about social equity in PES. I hope it is useful for you and your team’s work on ecosystem services. It would mean a lot to us if it helps people think about some of the points you mention. You can also check the origin of this debate in: Corbera and Pascual (2012): Ecosystem services: heed social goals, SCIENCE, 335(6069): 655-656. DOI:10.1126/science.335.6069.655-c.

    More reactions to the paper in @unaipasku

    Best wishes

  2. I agree it is a very interesting paper there are number of other papers (on similar topics) that I would also recommend from Unai and his colleagues:

    Pascual, Unai, et al. “Exploring the links between equity and efficiency in payments for environmental services: A conceptual approach.” Ecological Economics 69.6 (2010): 1237-1244.

    Muradian, R., et al. “Payments for ecosystem services and the fatal attraction of win‐win solutions.” Conservation Letters 6.4 (2013): 274-279.


    Wegner, Giulia, and Unai Pascual. “Cost-benefit analysis in the context of ecosystem services for human well-being: A multidisciplinary critique.” Global Environmental Change 21.2 (2011): 492-504.

    Are particularly good (full disclosure I have a co-authored a number of papers with Unai Pascual).

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