Agent-based modeling of the effects of social norms on enrollment in payments for ecosystem services


Xiaodong Chen, Frank Lupi, Li An, Ryan Sheely, Andrés Viña, Jianguo Liu

Journal or Book Title: Ecological Modeling

Keywords: Agent-based model; Conservation investments; Grain-to-Green Program; Payments for ecosystem services; Social norms

Volume/Issue: July 21, 2011

Page Number(s): online

Year Published: 2011


Conservation investments are increasingly being implemented through payments for ecosystem services (PES) for the protection and restoration of ecosystem services around the world. Previous studies suggested that social norms have substantial impacts on environmental behaviors of humans, including enrollment of PES programs. However, it is still not well understood how social norms are affected by the design of PES programs and how the evolution of social norms may affect the efficiency of conservation investments.

In this paper, we developed an agent-based simulation model to demonstrate the evolution and impacts of social norms on the enrollment of agricultural land in a PES program. We applied the model to land plots that have been enrolled in China's Grain-to-Green Program (GTGP) to examine reenrollment in an alternative payment program when the current payments ceased. The study was conducted in Wolong Nature Reserve where several thousand plant and animal species, including giant pandas, may benefit from the reenrollment. We found that over 15% more GTGP land can be reenrolled at the same payment if social norms were leveraged by allowing more than 10 rounds of interactions among landholders regarding their reenrollment decisions. With only three rounds of interactions, an additional 7.5% GTGP land was reenrolled at the same payment due to the effects of social norms. In addition, the effects of social norms were largest at intermediate payments and were smaller at much higher or much smaller payments. Even in circumstances where frequent interactions among landholders about their enrollment decisions are not feasible, policy arrangements that divide households into multiple waves for sequential enrollment can enroll over 11% more land at a given payment level. The approach presented in this paper can be used to improve the efficiency of existing PES programs and many other conservation investments worldwide.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2011.06.007

Type of Publication: Journal Article


B.D. Fath

Publisher: Elsevier