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The rain that falls in the Panama Canal Watershed floats the boats in one of the world’s most strategic shipping routes and provides water to one of Latin America’s most dynamic economies. Every drop counts, and Smithsonian hydrologists are trying to count every drop to figure out exactly what the water means to the ecosystem and the economy. They’ve set up automatic data loggers in forests and tree plantations to measure how much water trees consume, carried out artificial rainfall experiments to learn how water flows through soil, and measured stream flow across a varying landscape to understand how human-occupied tropical ecosystems regulate the flow of the world’s most precious natural resource.

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