Best of 2016: How to discover nature’s value? Just ask

Young boy paddles a boat between houses in Acol, a floating village on Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake

Young boy paddles a boat between houses in Acol, a floating village on Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake. CI scientists are working in places like this to determine which natural areas are the most economically and culturally valuable for locals in order to prioritize protection. (© Conservation International/photo by Molly Bergen)

Editor’s note: As the end of 2016 approaches, Human Nature is revisiting some of our favorite stories of the year. To support crucial conservation work like this, consider making a donation to Conservation International

It’s common knowledge that nature provides important services for people, from clean fresh water to a steady supply of fresh fish. What’s less understood is how best to measure these benefits. Which parts of nature are the most important to protect? And how much can we chip away at them before they no longer provide the services we rely on?

In one of our favorite features of the year, CI scientist Rachel Neugarten takes on these tough questions and reveals the scientific process behind the search for the answers. But before deploying advanced mapping techniques and detailed biological surveys, our researchers rely first on a tool that is decidedly low-tech: in-depth conversations with the communities who depend on nature most.

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Jamey Anderson is a staff writer for Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates.

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