Payments for ecosystem services is slowly gaining ground as evident by carbon sequestration, national forest conservation and watershed level initiatives. Formidable obstacles remain, not least the measurement of ecosystem goods and services and the actual changing of behaviour.
An article in Resources, as referred to on the Environment for Development website explains:
A promising concept that has received considerable attention, Payment-for-ecosystems- services has the potential to become a conventional environmental management tool.
Forests and farms supply a wide array of valuable ecosystem services including sequestering carbon, harboring biodiversity, and preventing soil erosion. Yet forest and farm managers rarely, if ever, receive a financial reward for these services. As a result, from society’s perspective, they may be too quick to clear trees and engage other activities that disrupt ecosystem benefits. An increasingly popular approach to this problem is to pay land managers for the ecosystem services their parcels provide. Payment-for-ecosystem-services (PES) programs have been established in a number of places around the globe, and they function at a variety of geographic scales. Emerging markets for carbon sequestration credits constitute an international program; national forest conservation programs are operating in Australia, Costa Rica, and Mexico; and the World Bank, among others, has piloted watershed-level initiatives in a several countries.
A promising concept that has received considerable attention, PES has the potential to become a conventional environmental management tool. Its ability to live up to its early
billing, however, will depend on the ability of its proponents to develop strategies and methods for targeting payments to ensure they actually change behavior, and for more precisely
measuring ecosystem services to ensure that payments are as cost-effective as possible.