Human health impacts of ecosystem alteration

Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, and Harvard Center for the Environment, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 11/2013; 110(47). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1218656110
Source: PubMed


Human activity is rapidly transforming most of Earth's natural systems. How this transformation is impacting human health, whose health is at greatest risk, and the magnitude of the associated disease burden are relatively new subjects within the field of environmental health. We discuss what is known about the human health implications of changes in the structure and function of natural systems and propose that these changes are affecting human health in a variety of important ways. We identify several gaps and limitations in the research that has been done to date and propose a more systematic and comprehensive approach to applied research in this field. Such efforts could lead to a more robust understanding of the human health impacts of accelerating environmental change and inform decision making in the land-use planning, environmental conservation, and public health policy realms.

Download full-text


Available from: Richard Ostfeld
  • Source
    • "In Italic: complexity aspects: 1) Multiple drivers of ecosystem change: 2) Long and complex cause-effect chains 3) Multiple and diverse health impacts 4) Ecosystem services as well as disservices 5) Spatial heterogeneity and multi-scalarity 6) Interaction with socio-economicfactors. Adapted fromMyers et al. (2013). the framework which aspects of complexity of the ecosystem–human health relationship play a key role and where. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In the past decade, interest in the impacts of ecosystem change on human health has strongly increased. The ecosystem–health relationship, however, is characterized by several complexity aspects, such as multiple and diverse health impacts – both positive and negative – and a strong interaction with socio-economic factors. As these aspects strongly determine the outcomes of the ecosystem–human health relationship, they should be accounted for in assessments. We identified 14 ecosystem services and six ecosystem disservices with a direct impact on human health. An extensive search and selection procedure yielded eleven computer-based tools that we evaluated regarding their suitability for assessment of the ecosystem–health relationship. Nine of 14 health-related ecosystem services are addressed by one or more of these tools. However, most tools do not include the final step of actually assessing the associated health outcomes such as mortality or disease incidence. Furthermore, the review shows that each complexity aspect is addressed by several of the evaluated tools, but always in an incomplete way. We recommend that further tool development should focus on improved integration of socio-economic factors and inclusion of ecosystem disservices. This would allow better assessment of the net contribution of ecosystems to human health.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2016
  • Source
    • "In a recent work, Myers et al. (2014) presented a schematic of the complex relationships between altered environmental conditions and public health. The framework essentially shows that population-level vulnerability is affected by various social and infrastructure barriers that could either buffer or eliminate the impacts of an altered environment . "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: While the growing literature on forest ecosystem services has examined the value and significance of a range of services, our understanding of the health-related benefits of ecosystem services from forests is still limited. To characterize the role of forest resources in reducing community vulnerability to the heat effects of climate change, a general index of heat vulnerability (HEVI) was developed through Principle Components Analysis (PCA) and subsequently used within ANVOA and Poisson regression to assess the relationship between the amount and type of forest resources (species, management regime, spatial pattern) and a county's vulnerability to the heat effects of climate change. Results of the ANOVA showed significant differences in the extent and characteristics of forests among counties experiencing different levels of heat vulnerability. The Poisson regression using county heat mortality as the dependent variable found forest characteristics to have a significant influence on heat mortality when other determinants of vulnerability were controlled. A negative and significant relationship was specifically found between forest area and heat related mortality, which supports the hypothesis that the extent of forest coverage helps to alleviate vulnerability associated with heat effects. These findings have important implications for understanding the role of forest ecosystem services in reducing a community's vulnerability to the heat effects of climate change. Findings will also be useful in guiding land use planning and preserving desirable forest characteristics to help communities adapt to climate change.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Forest Policy and Economics
  • Source
    • "predators , competitors, symbionts), which can directly or indirectly affect transmission through changes in host behaviour, host physiology or their probability of encountering infectious stages (Fig. 1) (Ostfeld & Holt 2004; Johnson et al. 2010; Schmeller et al. 2014; Rohr et al. 2015). For instance most diversity–disease studies address dynamics of a single pathogen or disease without considering diversity effects on other pathogens or symbionts (Myers et al. 2013). Incorporation of a more inclusive set of focal symbionts, analogous to the "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Global losses of biodiversity have galvanised efforts to understand how changes to communities affect ecological processes, including transmission of infectious pathogens. Here, we review recent research on diversity-disease relationships and identify future priorities. Growing evidence from experimental, observational and modelling studies indicates that biodiversity changes alter infection for a range of pathogens and through diverse mechanisms. Drawing upon lessons from the community ecology of free-living organisms, we illustrate how recent advances from biodiversity research generally can provide necessary theoretical foundations, inform experimental designs, and guide future research at the interface between infectious disease risk and changing ecological communities. Dilution effects are expected when ecological communities are nested and interactions between the pathogen and the most competent host group(s) persist or increase as biodiversity declines. To move beyond polarising debates about the generality of diversity effects and develop a predictive framework, we emphasise the need to identify how the effects of diversity vary with temporal and spatial scale, to explore how realistic patterns of community assembly affect transmission, and to use experimental studies to consider mechanisms beyond simple changes in host richness, including shifts in trophic structure, functional diversity and symbiont composition. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Ecology Letters
Show more