Payments and markets for forest ecosystem services in the USA: lessons for Ireland.

  • Vincent Upton Rural Economy Development Programme, Teagasc, Athenry, Co. Galway.
Keywords: Payments for ecosystem services, water markets, wetland mitigation banking, carbon trading.


The importance of ecosystem services (ES) to social and economic activity has long been recognised but these services, which are often recognised as public goods, are rarely accounted for directly in commercial forest management outside of meeting regulatory requirements. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) brought the importance of ES into focus and identified that the majority of services have been deteriorating in recent decades, which calls into question the effectiveness of existing conservation efforts. Payments for ecosystem services (PES) create financial incentives for landowners and natural resource managers to protect or enhance the goods and services that their forests produce. Such market-based mechanisms for conservation are recognised in international and EU policies as having significant benefits. A number of payments and markets for ES have been established in the USA for some time and include publicly funded schemes and voluntary and regulatory markets. Regulatory markets have been established to mitigate damage to water quality, wetlands and habitats of listed species guided by federal legislation. Voluntary markets for carbon have been successful in allowing private, non-industrial forest landowners to enter carbon markets on a limited basis. This review describes the development of the main PES schemes in the USA and provides a number of examples of their application. In addition the potential benefits, drivers and challenges of implementing PES are described, with regard to the perspective of smaller forest owners in Ireland.
How to Cite
Upton, V. (2015) “Payments and markets for forest ecosystem services in the USA: lessons for Ireland.”, Irish Forestry. Available at: (Accessed: 19July2024).