Spatial prioritisation of environmental service payments for biodiversity protection

Spatial prioritisation of environmental service payments for biodiversity protection

Targeting environmental service payments to private land-owners, Costa Rica

This study demonstrates the use of TARGET trade-offs analysis for prioritising environmental service payments (so-called PSA or 'Pagos por Servicios Ambientales' in Spanish ) to private land-owners in the Osa Conservation Area (ACOSA), Costa Rica.

The paper answers a number of research questions of direct management relevance in ACOSA and general relevance to biodiversity conservation planning in the region:

  • What is the incremental opportunity cost of extending environmental service payments to areas outside established protected areas?
  • What have been the incremental costs and biodiversity complementarity of existing allocation of economic incentives to private conservation relative to a cost-efficient allocation as calculated using TARGET?
  • How might the National Forestry Fund (FONAFIFO) prioritise PSA between future competing applications for incentives from land-owners in the Osa Conservation Area?
  • What data collection challenges must be overcome in order to implement TARGET as a prioritisation tool for PSAs at national level in Costa Rica?

The analysis for the ACOSA area concludes that the 1999-2001 selection of areas to receive environmental service payments for forest protection, forest management, and reforestation was not cost-efficient, in the sense of maximising biodiversity protection on private land outside existing national parks, while also minimising the opportunity costs to agriculture and commercial forestry.

The study goes on to show how TARGET methodology may be used to rank PSA candidate areas by their cost-efficiency in representing complementary biodiversity at lowest cost at regional level (ACOSA). Current limitations of the analysis include sufficient resolution to evaluate PSA candidate areas smaller than 100 hectares.

The study discusses the possibility of application of methodology at national level provided improved processing capacity of the TARGET software, and improved national coverage of GIS for environmental attributes that are used as biodiversity surrogates. [author]