The purpose of this Guide is to help with the design and implementation of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes and its publication fulfils a government commitment in the 2011 Natural Environment white paper, The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature. PES schemes involve payments to the managers of land or other natural resources in exchange for the provision of specified ecosystem services (or actions anticipated to deliver these services) over-and-above what would otherwise be provided in the absence of payment. Payments are made by the beneficiaries of the services in question, for example, individuals, communities, businesses or governments acting on behalf of various parties. Beneficiaries and land or resource managers enter into PES agreements on a voluntary basis and are in no way obligated to do so. Ecosystem services, simply defined, are the benefits we derive from the natural environment. These include, for example, the provision of food, water, timber and fibre; the regulation of air quality, climate and flood risk; opportunities for recreation, tourism and cultural development; and underlying functions such as soil formation and nutrient cycling. Maintaining and enhancing ecosystem services – and restoring them where they have been lost or degraded – is increasingly recognised as essential for sustainable economic growth, prosperous communities and promoting peoples’ wellbeing.

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