Ecosystems support plant and animal life by maintaining the overall balance in nature. When functioning well, ecosystems also bring multiple benefits to people. These benefits range from provision of basic commodities, such as food and fuel, to spiritual benefits, for example, the aesthetically pleasing landscapes that we all enjoy.
Understanding and valuing these benefits, including where appropriate the economic benefits, can help tip the balance in favour of land-use choices that maintain rather than convert forests. They can stimulate and provide the justification for a range of place-based solutions, which include creating new protected areas, other forms of legal or voluntary set-asides, implementing sustainable forestry practices and restoring forests. It is critical to create enabling conditions for landscapes where nature and forest ecosystem services are valued and conserved, while the aspirations of local populations are met.
Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) is one such way. An innovative approach to conservation, PES encourages the maintenance of natural ecosystems through environmentally friendly practices that avoid damage for other users of the natural resources, and it helps improve rural lifestyles.