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Incorporating societal challenges and values into the design of locally appropriate nature-based solutions (NbS) is an integral strategy for ensuring benefits for both communities and the environment. But how are human-nature relations impacted when the environments containing resources which are valued and relied on, undergo dramatic and sustained change on decadal timescales? To explore this interplay, we selected Muynak as a case study, once a thriving town on the shores of the former Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. We conducted a social survey among the residents to identify the use of natural resources and the values they assign to the most common and yet highly degraded resources in the area (wetlands, rangelands, afforested areas, the Aral Sea, and wildlife). The survey was complemented with expert interviews. Our study suggests that grasslands are the most frequently used of the resources under study, while wetlands and wildlife are generally more valued. Overall, resources were more culturally valued than financially, historically, or recreationally. The majority of respondents perceived a degradation in most natural resources over the past decade, particularly wetlands (79 %), followed by grasslands (48 %), and the Aral Sea (42 %). Wetlands were reported to be in a state of ongoing degradation by 79 % of respondents, which negatively affected the livelihoods of almost half of the households in the survey area. Afforested areas were the only resources reported to have a positive perceived change in both status and their effect on well-being. The vast majority of respondents (83 %) felt that human well-being was linked to environmental conditions. This study lays the foundation for future interventions to develop nature-based solutions to benefit both people and nature, and highlights the continuing value placed on nature by residents of an area that has suffered substantial anthropogenic degradation.

Original publication




Journal article


Land Use Policy

Publication Date