Research ArticleECOLOGY

Revealing pathways from payments for ecosystem services to socioeconomic outcomes

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Science Advances  21 Mar 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 3, eaao6652
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao6652

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Payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs have been widely implemented as a promising tool to conserve ecosystems while facilitating socioeconomic development. However, the underlying pathways (or processes) through which PES programs affect socioeconomic outcomes remain elusive, and existing literature provides little guidance to quantify them. By integrating linkages among PES programs, livelihood activities, and socioeconomic outcomes, we develop a framework to reveal pathways from PES programs to socioeconomic outcomes. We empirically demonstrate the framework’s operationalization and uncover the pathways that lead to unexpected negative effects of two important PES programs on participating households’ income. With improved understanding of the pathways (for example, the programs decreased income through reducing crop production), we provide recommendations to enhance the PES programs’ outcomes in our demonstration site and beyond. Our study highlights the finding that elucidating the pathways from PES programs to their outcomes can help identify specific strategies to achieve ecosystem conservation and socioeconomic development simultaneously.

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