This new paper by Mark Reed and colleagues develops a novel place-based approach to Payments for Ecosystem Services that is designed to better account for shared, plural and cultural values. Place-based PES schemes can mitigate negative trade-offs between ecosystem services, more effectively include cultural ecosystem services and engage with and empower diverse stakeholders in scheme design and governance.
Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes are proliferating but are challenged by insufficient attention to spatial and temporal inter-dependencies, interactions between different ecosystems and their services, and the need for multi-level governance. To address these challenges, this paper develops a place-based approach to the development and implementation of PES schemes that incorporates multi-level governance, bundling or layering of services across multiple scales, and shared values for ecosystem services. The approach is evaluated and illustrated using case study research to develop an explicitly place-based PES scheme, the Peatland Code, owned and managed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s UK Peatland Programme and designed to pay for restoration of peatland habitats. Buyers preferred bundled schemes with premium pricing of a primary service, contrasting with sellers’ preferences for quantifying and marketing services separately in a layered scheme. There was limited awareness among key business sectors of dependencies on ecosystem services, or the risks and opportunities arising from their management. Companies with financial links to peatlands or a strong environmental sustainability focus were interested in the scheme, particularly in relation to climate regulation, water quality, biodiversity and flood risk mitigation benefits. Visitors were most interested in donating to projects that benefited wildlife and were willing to donate around £2 on-site during a visit. Sellers agreed a deliberated fair price per tonne of CO2 equivalent from £11.18 to £15.65 across four sites in Scotland, with this range primarily driven by spatial variation in habitat degradation. In the Peak District, perceived declines in sheep and grouse productivity arising from ditch blocking led to substantially higher prices, but in other regions ditch blocking was viewed more positively. The Peatland Code was developed in close collaboration with stakeholders at catchment, landscape and national scales, enabling multi-level governance of the management and delivery of ecosystem services across these scales. Place-based PES schemes can mitigate negative trade-offs between ecosystem services, more effectively include cultural ecosystem services and engage with and empower diverse stakeholders in scheme design and governance.