Thursday, January 3, 2013

[Conservation 2013] An evaluation of the effectiveness of a direct payment for biodiversity conservation: The Bird Nest Protection Program in the Northern Plains of Cambodia

Direct payments for the protection of biodiversity (a type of payment for environmental services) have been proposed as an effective tool for delivering conservation outcomes, in a way that also delivers development benefits to local people. Using an impact evaluation framework, this paper analyses the effectiveness of a direct payment program that was established for nine globally threatened bird species in the Northern Plains of Cambodia. The program provided conditional payments to local people to protect nests, since most of the species were highly threatened by the collection of eggs and chicks. Since the program’s inception in 2003 it has protected >2700 nests over >2000 of habitat at a cost of $30,000 annually, with 71–78% of the costs paid directly to local people. Payments significantly improved the success rates of protected nests in comparison with control sites, leading to population increases for at least three species. However, payments did not influence other threats to species, such as land clearance, and have failed to arrest declines in at least one species’ population. The average payment per protector was a significant contribution to incomes in remote rural villages. However, the program only benefited a small proportion of people, causing some local jealousies and deliberate disturbance of nesting birds. The program demonstrates that direct payments can be a highly effective conservation tool in those cases where payments correctly target the cause of biodiversity loss. The results also suggest that it is important to consider how decisions over beneficiaries are made, especially in situations where property rights over biodiversity are unclear, if payments are to be socially acceptable. This has important implications for the design of payment schemes in conservation more generally.

► Impact evaluation completed of a direct payments for biodiversity conservation program. ► Direct payments were highly effective at protecting biodiversity. ► Effectiveness depended upon payments correctly targeting causes of species decline. ► Payments provided significant contributions to the incomes of local people. ► Inequitable payments may undermine the social acceptance of the program.

Keywords: Payments for Environmental Services (PES), Direct payments, Nest protection, Endangered species conservation, Impact evaluation


2013. An evaluation of the effectiveness of a direct payment for biodiversity conservation: The Bird Nest Protection Program in the Northern Plains of Cambodia. Biological Conservation. 157 (2013) 50–59

Rare water birds recovering in Cambodia