Payments for Ecosystem Services: long-term Effectiveness and Motivations for the conservation of forest ecosystems (PES-EMOTIVE)


Global biodiversity loss and climate change mitigation are two of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. To partially address such challenges, Payments for Ecosystem or Environmental Services (PES) programs have disbursed billions of dollars of funding to rural communities and landowners in tropical and sub-tropical countries, conditional on the voluntary conservation of standing forests as a means of protecting biodiversity and reducing emissions from land-use change. As of today, there are still very few analyses of the effectiveness of such programs which compare similar neighboring forests with and without PES and control for contextual variables. These studies have examined the conservation of changes in forest cover over a short period of time and they have not accounted for people’s motivations for forest conservation and for local institutions as key factors that contribute to enhanced or reduced conservation, particularly when payments end.

PES-EMOTIVE aims to fill these gaps by analyzing how permanent the effects of PES programs on forest cover are in the long term and by exploring how PES participants’ motivations and local institutional contexts evolve and influence such effects. The project will be carried out in two regions of Mexico and Colombia, which host long-standing PES programs but have differing institutional contexts. We will adopt a multi-disciplinary approach that integrates quantitative land-use system science and social science methods. We hope to advance environmental and conservation science by, first, shedding light on the effectiveness of the studied PES programs; second, revealing the linkages and interactions between forest cover, motivations and the broader institutional context; and, finally, generating a database of people’s motivations to conserve forests at family-household level, which can will be used as a baseline for future research.

The project is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, and it is co-led by Esteve Corbera and Sergio Villamayor-Tomás (ICTA-UAB), Lina Moros (Universidad de los Andes) and Santiago Izquierdo-Tort (Université du Québec en Outaouais)

We are looking for prospective (ideally self-funded) PhD candidates willing to participate in the project and who could start working with us during the academic year 2020-2021. If interested, please send an email with your CV to

Project dates

 June 2020 - May 2022

Research area


  • Payments for ecosystem services
  • motivations
  • behaviour
  • institutions
  • Mexico
  • Colombia

Team members

Research Professor
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