Understanding PES from the ground up: a combined choice experiment and interview approach to understanding PES in Costa Rica

  • Karen E. AllenEmail author
  • Gregory Colson
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Environmental Economics
  2. Environmental Economics


Payments for environmental services (PES) are part of a suite of market-based conservation mechanisms that have gained international attention for their potential to produce ecosystem services across private landholdings. The Costa Rican government, a PES pioneer, provides landowners with remuneration for conserving forest cover on their properties. The efficiency and effectiveness of PES programs have been critiqued, because little is understood about the ability of payments to alter landowner behavior. Unique to the existent literature, we combine data from semi-structured interviews with an economic nonmarket valuation technique, the stated choice experiment, to explore preferences for PES and the impact of PES on decision making in the mixed-use Bellbird Biological Corridor of Costa Rica. The choice experiment reveals farmer preferences for PES, while interviews provide context for the choice experiment results and illuminate the implications for policy. Results show that farmer objections to PES design and program implementation influence willingness to accept payments for conservation efforts. Results further indicate that a significant share of farmers in the study area are resistant to the PES program irrespective of competitive payments offered. We suggest that this overall resistance to the program is a key driver of program inefficiency. We further suggest that potential program improvements require better engagement with multifaceted landowner values, and that PES may not constitute an effective mechanism for engaging small-scale farmers in conservation.


Payments for environmental services Nonmarket valuation Stated choice experiment Mixed methods Costa Rica 



Field research was funded by the National Science Foundation (BCS-1357296), the Wenner-Gren Foundation (Gr. 8810), and The University of Georgia Dean’s Award. Additional funding in support of analysis was from the National Science Foundation Award to the Coweeta LTER Research Program (DEB-0823293). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies. We also wish to thank Ted Gragson, Rebecca Moore, Julie Velasquez Runk, Nate Nibbelink, Peter Brosius, and two anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly improved the quality of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesFurman UniversityGreenvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural and Applied EconomicsThe University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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