For over 20-years, the concept of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) has been evolving. During this time, an enhanced understanding of supporting sciences, potential frameworks, and protocol methods has emerged and continues to improve.
The Georgia Forestry Foundation (GFF) invested in this work to broaden the understanding of PES programs, identify potential opportunities, and to increase engagement with private forest landowners. PES programs offer a means to assist private forest landowners by providing technical and financial assistance deemed necessary to reduce forestland conversion to other land uses, improve or protect water quality, and sustain water quantity. This literature review, also informed by expert interviews and focus groups, identifies and opens the door to proven forest-to-water PES frameworks. It provides a context for developing a PES program addressing forests and water in the state of Georgia, and potentially other areas located in the Southeastern United States. It addresses the relevance of forest hydrology, engagement with private forest landowners, ecosystem service opportunities, and PES mechanisms and case studies that illustrate potential frameworks with a focus on needs and opportunities with the target region. The design of key influential PES program components is also addressed, including performance expectations, operation protocols, legal agreements, and payment terms.
This work builds upon previous research in Georgia that explored and quantified ecosystem services and market opportunities. A key piece of prior work is Moore, et al. which identified the many ecosystem services that forests in Georgia provide. This work also builds upon established watershed level projects and partnerships, including the startup and advancement of the Savannah River’s Clean Water Fund (SRCWF), the first of its kind in the region. The partnerships established by the Southeastern Partnership for Forests and Water in the Oconee, Middle Chattahoochee, and Savannah River watersheds greatly enhance the opportunities to develop payment for ecosystem services programs.