The practice of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) in the Tropical Andes: Evidence from program administrators

Jonathan Bauchet, Nigel Asquith, Zhao Ma, Claudia Radel, Ricardo Godoy, Laura Zanotti, Diana Steele, Benjamin M. Gramig, Andrea Estrella Chong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) have focused on the theory, design, and impact of programs while paying less attention to program implementation. We surveyed 18 administrators from 39 active PES programs across the Tropical Andes about their views on program design and implementation. We found that (1) all programs have both ecological and social goals, (2) few programs pay cash, (3) most programs’ primary source of financial support are international organizations, (4) barriers to participation are perceived as behavioral more than economic, and (5) conditionality exists on paper in all programs but is seldom enforced. To explore the “why” behind these findings, we conducted follow-up key-informant interviews with administrators of Watershared, one of the largest in-kind conservation incentives programs in the region. Watershared's characteristics – dual goals, in-kind transfers, a focus on non-economic motivations, and compliance enforcement – are fundamental to its theory of change and sustainability. Together, these survey and interview results show how PES has been adapted and reinvented to fit different philosophies, institutions, and cultures across the Tropical Andes. Our work highlights the importance of collaboration between academics and PES practitioners for addressing the disparities between academically promoted design principles and on-the-ground implementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101175
JournalEcosystem Services
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Conditionality
  • Conservation incentive
  • Market-based conservation
  • Payments for environmental services
  • Program implementation
  • Social equity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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