The things that people take from nature -- water, food, timber, inspiration, relaxation -- are so abundant, nature’s benefits seem self-evident. At least until you try to quantitatively understand how and to what extent they contribute to human well-being. In today's world, where competition for and degradation of natural resources is increasing globally, it becomes ever more crucial to quantify the value of ecosystem services -- the precise term that defines nature's benefits -- and even more important to link how different types of ecosystem services affect various components of human well-being. Scientists at Michigan State University's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, in two parallel papers published in this week's journal PLOS ONE, develop an entirely new integrated approach to quantify both human dependence on ecosystem services and human well-being so as to promote the understanding of the linkages between them -- an important step toward improved understanding, monitoring and management of coupled human and natural systems.
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