"We are the city lungs": Payments for ecosystem services in the outskirts of Mexico City

Angela Caro-Borrero, Esteve Corbera, Kurt Christoph Neitzel, Lucia Almeida-Leñero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Payments for ecosystem services (PES) have emerged as an incentive-based policy instrument to manage and secure the flow of ecosystem services for human wellbeing. PES implementation has been mostly examined in rural areas but very few studies have paid attention to experiences in rural-urban landscapes that provide critical ecosystem services for densely populated areas. Informed by household surveys and focus groups, we analyze the implementation of Mexico's federal program of Payments for Watershed Services (PSAH in Spanish) in two communities located in the rural-urban fringe of Mexico City, paying attention to landowners' dependence on ecosystem services and both perceived benefits and costs of participating in the PSAH program. We demonstrate that landowners are generally aware of the critical services they provide to the city and beyond but there is a skewed level of knowledge regarding the program objectives and an uneven sharing of its benefits. The latter is influenced by collective organization and environmental history, with higher knowledge and more equitable benefit sharing present in the community with a more long-standing commitment to forest conservation. The PSAH incentive contributes to household income but it is clearly insufficient to motivate strong family and collective action towards halting land-use change beyond the PSAH targeted area. We thus argue that conservation policy in urban-rural fringes needs to be accompanied by effective land-use planning at regional level. This should involve multiple stakeholders and the re-conceptualization of Mexico City surrounding agricultural lands and forests as spaces to be governed for the provision of ecosystem services rather than as areas over which the city can expand.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-148
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


  • Hydrological services
  • Land tenure
  • Mexico City
  • Payments for ecosystem services
  • Rural-urban
  • Watersheds


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