What are they?
Payments for ecosystem services (PES) is a term used to describe a range of schemes through which the beneficiaries, or users, of ecosystem services provide payment to the stewards, or providers of those services. The beneficiaries may be individuals, communities, businesses or public bodies.
Uptake in the UK
A summary of the results of a 2016 survey of perceptions about PES and its uptake in the UK is now available.
In December 2016, Defra published its review of 16 payments for ecosystem services pilot projects that it supported between 2012 and 2015. This contains a helpful description of what payments for ecosystem services, as well as an overview of the findings from the pilots.
In September 2016, Green Alliance and the National Trust launched a proposal for a Natural Infrastructure Scheme, an area based market in avoided costs, delivering environmental improvements by bringing together groups of land managers to sell ecosystem services to groups of beneficiaries.
The Defra best practice guide on payments for ecosystem services remains the best introduction to what the approach is and how it might be applied in the UK. It contains an annex outlining some examples of schemes in the UK and elsewhere. Both documents (main report , , downloaded by clicking on the images below.
- In 2014, an assessment of the potential for payments for ecosystem service mechanisms was published. While this report written for Wales, it provides a helpful review of the market opportunities and constraints for this approach. The work was commissioned by Welsh Government.
Defra has supported a wide range of PES pilot projects exploring the potential for PES across England and Wales. Alongside these the Wetland Example of Payments for Ecosystem Services initiative has been applying PES on the River Fal in West Cornwall. The annex to the best practice guide on payments for ecosystem services lists a series of UK and international case studies of schemes in which payments for ecosystem services have played a part.
- See the 2014 report on funded research into how wider participation in PES schemes might be brought about, with a focus on specific business sectors and local authorities. See also a Defra-funded study on barriers and opportunities for the use of PES.
- See the 2011 report describing the background and evidence base on PES.
- A policy and practice note on Payment for Ecosystem Services has been published by the Rural Economy and Land Use Programme. It concludes that PES can be a useful tool for better conservation or natural resources, although it will not provide all the answers. The Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) Programme has also published a Policy and Practice Note "Payment for Ecosystem Services: what does it mean for the future of our environment?" which outlines the latest developments and thinking about PES along with recommendations for the future.
- Mary Christie from Scottish Natural Heritage has provided an assessment of the potential uses of PES in meeting land use and biodiversity challenges in Scotland.
Specific environmental contexts
- The Valuing Nature Network has published a briefing note entitled 'Catchment Management Using Payments for Ecosystem Services to Restore and Maintain Upland Peat'.
- A guide to restoring river catchment function using payments for ecosystem services has been produced by Westcountry Rivers Trust in association with partners in the WATER Project. This can be accessed at the bottom of a webpage describing The Rivers Trust EU 'WATER' Conference, June 2012.
- A primer on initiating PES schemes in marine and coastal systems has been produced by Forest Trends.
- A report on Developing place based approaches for PES in the English Uplands, focussing on the practical application of PES schemes in uplands. The technical appendix discusses how carbon sequestration services in the South Pennines could be valued and potentially traded as part of a PES scheme.
Standards and codes
- The Woodland Carbon Code helps to provide assurance to individuals and businesses that woodland planting and management schemes will deliver the carbon savings that they claim.
- The UK Peatland Code was launched in 2013 as a voluntary standard for peatland restoration projects in the UK that want to be sponsored on the basis of their climate and other benefits.
The role of charities and the non-profit sector
In 2014, the summary of an assessment of the role of charities and other non-profit organisations in facilitating and supporting the take up of PES was published. The work was commissioned by Welsh Government.