External stressors pose overlooked threats to environmental payment schemes

National University of Singapore and CIFOR release joint paper.
Forest firest are external stressors to an ecosystem. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR photo

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BOGOR, Indonesia—A fire rages, not only clearing large swathes of forest, but also threatening a protected area nearby. Managers are largely powerless to control the fires outside their site boundaries.

A new dam is constructed on a river, starving a downstream protected wetland of the sediment and nutrients it needs to survive, so that it is less able to contribute to local fisheries.

These cases exemplify a set of “hidden” threats that many conservationists face: events that occur outside the borders of their immediate control. Even when an individual site is protected and well managed, outside activities can have profound effects on its maintenance and permanence. External stressors such as forest fires, pollution, sea-level rise, ocean acidification and invasive species can have profound environmental impacts on a protected site.

A recent paper, led by the National University of Singapore and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), argues that project-level conservation activities must do more to contend with these types of external events.  In particular, the authors highlight the importance of these external stressors on the design and functioning of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes.

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpted version of an article published to To read the rest of this article, click here.  

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