Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) are a popular conservation instrument in the Global South. However, little is known about how evolving PES design features affect local institutions and collective participation dynamics. Drawing on long-term field research spanning over a decade, we address this gap by investigating the evolution of PES design features and local responses by community participants in 10 communities of Selva Lacandona, state of Chiapas, Mexico. We show that Mexican PES programmes have shifted their goals over time, progressively adding productive, organisational, and social inclusion concerns to their main goal of forest conservation. We document a set of local responses to such PES design changes, namely: i) efforts to secure sustained programme access; ii) adaptations to local benefit-sharing and participation agreements; and iii) discontinuities in enrolment triggered by specific changes in design features. We also show that participants’ interests and practices align with PES forest protection goals but reflect a partial involvement of the community (or constrained collective action) in conservation affairs. Overall, our findings illustrate the dynamic interplay and resulting (mis)alignments between PES goals, outcomes, and participants’ practices and interests.
- Adaptive governance
- Collective action
- Payments for environmental services
- Policy design
- Selva Lacandona