Linking Biodiversity and Human Health: A State of Knowledge Review
The intricate connection between biodiversity and human health is increasingly being recognized as a vital area of research. It has become imperative to understand how changes in biodiversity could impact the health of individuals, communities, and even society at large. This state of knowledge review aims to provide an overview of the current state of research on the relationship between biodiversity and human health. The review highlights the conceptual frameworks and drivers that underlie this relationship, exploring how they intersect and sometimes conflict, and the approaches currently being taken to integrate biodiversity and human health considerations into policy and practice.
Exploring the Conceptual Frameworks and Drivers of Change
Several conceptual frameworks articulate the links between biodiversity and human health. Initially, the biomedical model was used to frame the relationship on the basis of specific pathogenic microbes. However, it became clear that this model did not account for the many other ways in which biodiversity interacts with human health. For instance, the ecosystem service framework highlights the services that ecosystems provide, including provisioning (food, medicine), regulating (pollination, water purification), and cultural (recreation, spiritual) services. The ecological framework shows how human health depends on the variation in ecological systems and that any changes to these systems affect human health.
Drivers of Change
Several drivers of change affect the biodiversity and human health relationship. These primarily stem from human activities that alter the environment, such as land-use conversions, urbanization, and intensifying agricultural systems. Climate change also impacts both biodiversity and human health directly and indirectly. Direct impacts include weather-related disasters, such as heat waves and floods, while indirect impacts result from changes in ecosystem services and prevalence of disease vectors.
Approaches to Integration
Policy and practice integration approaches between biodiversity and human health have been varied, with different sectors taking different approaches. Some governments have adopted “One Health” approaches that align animal, human and environmental health initiatives. The implementation of such approaches which requires coordination across the health, environment, and agriculture sectors is still a challenge, however. Other approaches include ecohealth, which integrates the various dimensions of health with ecological and social determinants of health. Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes is also being applied globally, although their efficacy depends on the specifics of implementation.
Limitations on Research
There have been challenges in researching the links between biodiversity loss and human health. One challenge has been the complex interplay of variables involved in this relationship. Other challenges include a lack of funding for research, inadequate data, and a lack of holistic approaches that consider all the factors that could influence the relationship.
The establishment of interdisciplinary teams of researchers to work together to identify, develop, and implement approaches to mitigate the negative impacts of biodiversity loss on human health. Strategies for integrating biodiversity and human health considerations into policy and program design should also be adopted. There should be strong policy frameworks for regulatory measures to reduce the negative impacts of development on human health and embracing environmentally sound land use and occupation practices. Protecting and conserving existing ecosystem vitality is essential. Monitoring the effectiveness of proposed solutions needs to be prioritized to ensure beneficial outcomes.
Possible Future Scenarios
A sustainable future that integrates biodiversity and human health considerations is possible, though challenges persist. Such a future will require multidisciplinary and cross-agency collaboration, innovative technologies, transformative policies and financial incentives, and educational programs that prioritize the importance of preserving biodiversity for human health. Achieving this future will require political will, strong leadership, effective communication, public engagement, and resource mobilization.
Linking biodiversity and human health is a complex and dynamic relationship that requires interdisciplinary research, strong policies, and innovative approaches to maintain healthy ecosystems and healthy inhabitants. Collaborative solutions are vital to address the various drivers that impact this relationship, from climate change to land-use changes. Though there have been challenges in researching this relationship in the past, we must prioritize biodiversity conservation and restoration to achieve a healthier, more sustainable future for all.