Marketing ecosystem services through protected areas and rural communities in Meso-America: Implications for economic efficiency, equity and political legitimacy

TitleMarketing ecosystem services through protected areas and rural communities in Meso-America: Implications for economic efficiency, equity and political legitimacy
Publication TypeTyndall Working Paper
SeriesTyndall Centre Working Papers
Tyndall Consortium Institution

UEA

Secondary TitleTyndall Centre Working Paper 94
Keywordseconomic efficiency, equity, Marketing ecosystem services, Meso-America, political legitimacy, protected areas, rural communities
AuthorsCorbera, E., N. Kosoy, and Tuna M. Martinez
Year of Publication2006
Abstract

Ecosystem services regulate and support natural and human systems through processes such as the cleansing, recycling, and renewal of biological resources, and they are crucial for the long-term viability of human development in economic, social, cultural and ecological terms. Some of these services encompass, for example, carbon dioxide fixation, watershed regulation, and erosion control. During the last decade, we have seen an increase in the number of projects trading ecosystem services. These projects rest on the premise that they will contribute to environmental sustainability and rural development. In this paper we investigate the economic and social implications of four projects commercialising watershed recharge and carbon sequestration by native forests in Meso-America. Selling ecosystem services in protected areas becomes more economically efficient due to negligible opportunity costs but it also results in less equitable outcomes, as rural communities and forest resource users become excluded from participating in decision-making and accessing development benefits. When ecosystem services are commercialised by rural farmers, payments neither cover opportunity costs nor meet local income expectations. However, farmers benefit from complementary project activities, such as forest management training and agricultural extension support. We argue that limited economic impact and inequitable outcomes can be explained by problems of institutional design and projects’ inability to account for context-related factors, particularly property rights.

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