Timber plantation, Costa Rica

Sliding-scale environmental service payments and non-financial incentives: Results of a survey of landowner interest in Costa Rica

This study presents the results from a survey of landowner interest in a propositional payment modality for Costa Rica’s Pagos por Servicios Ambientales (PSA) program that is based on a sliding-scale payment scheme. This payment scheme would transition from higher monetary payments per hectare per year for the first units of land invested, to lower payments per hectare per year for additional units of land invested; however, as payments per hectare decrease, monetary payments would be supplemented with non-financial rewards. This program structure is designed to 1) offer higher per-hectare financial incentives to smaller-scale landowners, who would otherwise face steep trade-off costs by transitioning to conservation-based land-use, and 2) offer greater non-financial incentives to larger-scale landowners, who face less sharp trade-off costs, and who might be more interested in prestige- and status-based non-financial incentives than the currently meager PSA payments. I found support for the proposed program modality across all classes of landowners. Interest in PSA participation by small- and medium-scale landowners showed sensitivity to proposed payments, with landowners indicating a strong desire to participate in conservation land-use as soon as the proposed financial incentives were sufficient to cover their opportunity costs. Large-scale landowners showed little sensitivity to payment size, and in general—with mode=10 and median=7 responses on a 10 point Likert-scale—indicated strong willingness to participate in the PSA program under the proposed structure, even if financial incentives per hectare were decreased significantly for large investments of land, but prestige- and status-based awards were introduced. These results are discussed in the context of an emerging literature on signaling theory, conspicuous conservation, and the interaction of financial incentives and social norms. Bibtex:

@article{ross2016sliding,
  title={Sliding-scale environmental service payments and non-financial incentives: Results of a survey of landowner interest in Costa Rica},
  author={Ross, Cody T},
  journal={Ecological Economics},
  volume={130},
  pages={252--262},
  year={2016},
  publisher={Elsevier}
}

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