Valu­ing nat­u­ral as­sets

Down to Earth - - SCIENCE -

IT IS known that peo­ple of Eurasian ori­gin have in­her­ited any­where be­tween one and four per cent of their from Ne­an­derthals. Now a new study di­rectly com­pares Ne­an­derthal in the genomes of a sig­nif­i­cant pop­u­la­tion of adults of Euro­pean ances­try with their clin­i­cal records con­firm­ing that this ar­chaic ge­netic legacy has a sub­tle but sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on mod­ern hu­man bi­ol­ogy. For in­stance, Ne­an­derthal

af­fects cells called ker­atinocytes that help pro­tect the skin from en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age such as ul­travi­o­let ra­di­a­tion and pathogens. The pat­tern of as­so­ci­a­tions may have pro­vided mod­ern hu­mans with adap­tive ad­van­tages 40,000 years ago as they mi­grated into new non-African en­vi­ron­ments with dif­fer­ent pathogens and lev­els of sun ex­po­sure. A sur­pris­ingly num­ber of snip­pets of Ne­an­derthal were as­so­ci­ated with psy­chi­atric and neu­ro­log­i­cal ef­fects. Sci­ence, Fe­bru­ary 12 R E S E A R C H E R S H AV E adapted tra­di­tional as­set val­u­a­tion ap­proaches to mea­sure the value of nat­u­ral cap­i­tal as­sets, link­ing eco­nomic mea­sure­ments of ecosys­tem ser­vices with mod­els of nat­u­ral dy­nam­ics and hu­man be­hav­iour. They demon­strated how to price nat­u­ral cap­i­tal us­ing the ex­am­ple of the Kansas High Plains ground­wa­ter aquifer. Ground­wa­ter ex­trac­tion and changes in aquifer man­age­ment poli­cies, driven largely by sub­si­dies and new tech­nol­ogy, re­duced the state's to­tal wealth held in ground­wa­ter by $110 mil­lion per year be­tween 1996 and 2005. Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sci­ences, Fe­bru­ary 8

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