Measuring carbon in Guatemala’s Payments for Ecosystem Services Programs: how much of a difference do payments really make?

Authors: Niki vonHedemann*, University of Arizona
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Latin America
Keywords: climate change, political ecology, indigenous
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Galerie 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs, in the form of forestry incentives, are both valued and contested in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, where rural landusers have long fought for more inclusive programs. While not requiring the quantification a chosen ecosystem service, these programs aim to promote better forest management practices for general ecosystem service provision and to provide needed income for rural development. In order to determine the physical impacts of these programs, I measured a chosen ecosystem service – carbon sequestration – in incentivized and non-incentivized forests on both private and communal lands. Payment made little difference in the carbon sequestration capacity of forests utilizing this spatial comparative method. However, it is clear that land tenure has a very strong impact on providing carbon capture, as indigenous communal forests contained much higher amounts of carbon than adjacent private lands. I conclude that PES in Guatemala has the potential to bring marginal benefits through training, commitment, and income that is appreciated by rural recipients, but cannot be considered as strong of an influence on conservation as communal forms of land management that have provided forest protection equal to or greater than that demanded by the incentive programs for a much longer period of time. These conclusions underline the importance of PES programs for enhancing existing forms of successful management practices rather than replacing them. This paper also reflects the importance of a mixed methods approach to address the ecological side of political ecology research.

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