Working papers

Garcia, Alberto, Robert Heilmayr. “Conservation impact evaluation using remotely sensed data [SSRN working paper][Replication code]

Conservation scientists increasingly measure the impacts of conservation interventions by applying quasi-experimental impact evaluation to remotely sensed panel data on land use change. However, these applications come with new challenges. Using Monte Carlo simulations and analytical proofs, we demonstrate that many of the panel econometric models employed for conservation impact evaluation are biased - the significance, magnitude and even direction of estimated effects from many studies are likely incorrect. These errors threaten to undermine the evidence base that underpins conservation policy adoption and design. We review the methods in this burgeoning literature and develop guidance for the design of econometric models quantifying conservation policy effectiveness.

Garcia, Alberto.Targeting in payments for native forest restoration: evidence from Chile's Native Forest Law[Link]

Widespread landscape restoration has become an important part of global efforts to address the intertwined challenges posed by climate change, biodiversity loss, and rural poverty. Payments for ecosystem services are popular, and policymakers often target priority groups in an effort to achieve dual objectives of increased forest cover and social development. This approach has proven to create tradeoffs in payments for avoided deforestation, however, limited evidence exists on its viability in the restoration context. We evaluate the land cover impacts and targeting strategy of a Chilean federal program that pays landowners to restore their property with native species and prioritizes engagement of rural smallholders and indigenous communities. We find positive tree cover impacts amongst compliant properties, and we estimate that the program paid the average landowner $45.31 USD per ton of carbon removed. Although prioritized social characteristics were negatively associated with compliance, administrators verified project completion, preventing nearly $30 million USD in unconditional cash transfers. In contrast to many studies on avoided deforestation, complying smallholders in high poverty comunas generated the greatest tree cover gains per enrolled hectare. These findings illustrate that in contrast to payments for avoided deforestation, targeting for social development may enhance environmental effectiveness in payments for restoration.


Garcia, Alberto. (2020) The Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Intensification. Technical Note N.9. Rome. Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA) [Link]

In prep

Education outcomes are impacted by metropolitan ecosystem disruption: evidence from emerald ash borer in Chicago




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