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A Tale of Twin Towns

Natural Capital Degradation


Vandana A. Gudi
Department of Science
Robert Morgan Educational Center


This case study presents the fictional tale of two neighboring towns that have recently experienced a growth boom and are now suffering the environmental consequences. The case provides an opportunity to explore a wide variety of anthropogenic causes of natural capital degradation. Students are assigned the role of scientists working for the regional Department of Environmental Resources Management, and it is their job to discover the underlying causes for a wide variety of citizen complaints and to suggest reasonable and cost effective solutions. The case may be assigned as a recap activity after teaching a unit on natural capital degradation. The case includes a PowerPoint presentation as well as three lab activities that are included in the teaching notes. The case would be appropriate for high school or lower level undergraduate ecology or environmental science courses.

  • Evaluate environmental effects of extracting mineral resources.
  • Analyze the transmission of diseases via water.
  • Predict the effects of acid deposition on plants and soil.
  • Scrutinize the effect of human activities on the concentration of greenhouse gases in the troposphere.
  • Describe and summarize the effects of various water pollutants on surface and ground water.
  • Determine the causes leading to cultural eutrophication and how to reduce them.
  • Explain how ground water can become contaminated.
  • Explore and recommend measures to prevent ground water contamination.
Keywords: Natural capital degradation; deforestation; acid rain; cultural eutrophication; water pollution; acid-mine drainage; point source; contamination; runoff; aquifer; soil degradation; erosion; surface mining; underground leakage; anthropogenic activity
Topical Area: Regulatory issues
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF, PowerPoint
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Laboratory, Role-Play
Language: English
Subject Headings: Environmental Science   Natural Resource Management  
Date Posted: 2/12/2016
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

Teaching Notes

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Supplemental Materials

The PowerPoint presentation below focuses on the specific concepts students need to write the report assigned in the case study.

  Natural Capital Degradation


The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  The Anthropocene: Human Impact on the Environment hhmi/
Human activities are reshaping our planet in profound ways. The changes that have occurred in the last 50-200 years have led scientists to propose a new geologic epoch, called the Anthropocene. This interactive activity demonstrates how human population growth, air pollution, agriculture, mining, water use, and other human activities have impacted the environment and the mark they will leave in the fossil record. Produced by HHMI BioInteractive.

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