The value of tropical ecosystems - With a case-study of the Trésor nature reserve in French Guiana
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Ecosystem services with their biodiversity fulfil essential services that benefit mankind. A relatively new way to improve conservation of ecosystems and their biodiversity is to not only express their ecosystem services in monetary values but to also provide payment for them: Payment for Ecosystem Services or ‘PES’. It is hoped that besides raising awareness, PES will provide a financial incentive that facilitates more preservation and restoration of ecosystems. Presently, PES schemes are hastily being adopted while resources are limited. In this Thesis the question about whether PES can actually provide a monetary incentive that provides for ecosystem conservation was investigated. The question was subdivided into two sub-questions: (1) Does PES provide a monetary incentive that is higher than the relevant alternative land-uses; and (2) If so, does this lead to improved conservation of ecosystems? To answer these sub-questions an investigation into the literature was carried out which was complemented with a newly described case-study of the Trésor nature reserve of French Guiana. The Trésor nature reserve is a largely privately funded nature reserve that aims to conserve its tropical ecosystems, provides education on nature, facilitates scientific research on tis ecosystems and fulfils a role of focal point of nature conservationism. Literature addressing aspects of the efficiency of PES schemes in achieving nature conservation was found to be scarce and therefore the case-study of the Trésor nature reserve played an important complementary role in the answering of the research question. Although literature was scarce and with the case-study many assumptions had to be made, it was found that (1) PES does not guarantee that an economic incentive is created that is economically more interesting than the alternative conversion of nature. The literature study additionally found that (2) if there was a higher economic incentive, it did not automatically lead to better conservation of nature and if so, the effect was marginally positive. Because PES schemes are being hastily adopted it is therefore highly recommendable that future research into the questions posed is carried out and communicated to the scientific community and the relevant policy makers. The most important identified recommendations for this research would be: (a) That a future search query incorporates complementing literature through additional search words and involvement of expertise; and (b) The case-study presented in this Thesis is improved by further research for future utilization for comparisons.