Ecosystem services provided by mobile agents are increasingly threatened by the loss and modification of natural habitats and by climate change, risking the maintenance of biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and human welfare. Research oriented towards a better understanding of the joint effects of land use and climate change over the provision of specific ecosystem services is therefore essential to safeguard such services. Here we propose a methodological framework, which integrates species distribution forecasts and graph theory to identify key conservation areas, which if protected or restored could improve habitat connectivity and safeguard ecosystem services. We applied the proposed framework to the provision of pollination services by a tropical stingless bee (Melipona quadrifasciata), a key pollinator of native flora from the Brazilian Atlantic Forest and important agricultural crops. Based on the current distribution of this bee and that of the plant species used to feed and nest, we projected the joint distribution of bees and plants in the future, considering a moderate climate change scenario (following IPPC). We then used this information, the bee’s flight range, and the current mapping of Atlantic Forest remnants to infer habitat suitability and quantify local and regional habitat connectivity for 2030, 2050 and 2080. Our results revealed north to south and coastal to inland shifts in the pollinator distribution during the next 70 years. Current and future connectivity maps unraveled the most important corridors, which if protected or restored, could facilitate the dispersal and establishment of bees during distribution shifts. Our results also suggest that coffee plantations from eastern São Paulo and southern Minas Gerais States could suffer a pollinator deficit in the future, whereas pollination services seem to be secured in southern Brazil. Landowners and governmental agencies could use this information to implement new land use schemes. Overall, our proposed methodological framework could help design novel conservational and agricultural practices that can be crucial to conserve ecosystem services by buffering the joint effect of habitat configuration and climate change.
Dung beetles are detrivorous insects that feed on and reproduce in the fecal material of vertebrates. This dependency on vertebrate feces implies frequent contact between dung beetles and parasitic helminths with a fecal component to their life-cycle. Interactions between dung beetles and helminths carry both positive and negative consequences for successful parasite transmission, however to date there has been no systematic review of dung beetle-helminth interactions, their epidemiological importance, or their underlying mechanisms. Here we review the observational evidence of beetle biodiversity–helminth transmission relationships, propose five mechanisms by which dung beetles influence helminth survival and transmission, and highlight areas for future research. Efforts to understand how anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity may influence parasite transmission must include the development of detailed, mechanistic understanding of the multiple interactions between free-living and parasitic species within ecological communities. The dung beetle– helminth system may be a promising future model system with which to understand these complex relationships.
Future climate change is expected to lengthen and intensify pollen seasons in the U.S., potentially increasing incidence of allergic asthma. We developed a proof-of-concept approach for estimating asthma emergency department (ED) visits in the U.S. associated with present-day and climate-induced changes in oak pollen. We estimated oak pollen season length for moderate (Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5) and severe climate change scenarios (RCP8.5) through 2090 using five climate models and published relationships between temperature, precipitation, and oak pollen season length. We calculated asthma ED visit counts associated with 1994–2010 average oak pollen concentrations and simulated future oak pollen season length changes using the Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program, driven by epidemiologically derived concentration-response relationships. Oak pollen was associated with 21,200 (95% confidence interval, 10,000–35,200) asthma ED visits in the Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest U.S. in 2010, with damages valued at $10.4 million. Nearly 70% of these occurred among children age <18 years. Severe climate change could increase oak pollen season length and associated asthma ED visits by 5% and 10% on average in 2050 and 2090, with a marginal net present value through 2090 of $10.4 million (additional to the baseline value of $346.2 million). Moderate versus severe climate change could avoid >50% of the additional oak pollen-related asthma ED visits in 2090. Despite several key uncertainties and limitations, these results suggest that aeroallergens pose a substantial U.S. public health burden, that climate change could increase U.S. allergic disease incidence, and that mitigating climate change may have benefits from avoided pollen-related health impacts.
As the global human population continues to grow, so too does our impact on the environment. The ingenuity with which our species has harnessed natural resources to fulfill our needs is dazzling. Even as we tighten our grip on the environment, however, the escalating extent of anthropogenic actions destabilizes long-standing ecological balances (1, 2). The dangers of mining, refining, and fossil fuel consumption now extend beyond occupational or proximate risks to global climate change (3). Among a plethora of environmental problems, extreme climate events are intensifying (4, 5). Storms, droughts, and floods cause direct destruction, but also have pervasive repercussions on food security, infectious disease transmission, and economic stability that take their toll for many years. For example, within weeks of the catastrophic wind and flood damage from the 2016 Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, there was a dramatic surge in cholera, among other devastating repercussions (6, 7). In a world where 1% of the population possesses 50% of the wealth (8), those worst affected by extreme climatic events and the aftermath are also the least able to rebound.
Understanding feedbacks between human and environmental health is critical for the millions who cope with recurrent illness and rely directly on natural resources for sustenance. Although studies have examined how environmental degradation exacerbates infectious disease, the effects of human health on our use of the environment remains unexplored. Human illness is often tacitly assumed to reduce human impacts on the environment. By this logic, ill people reduce the time and effort that they put into extractive livelihoods and, thereby, their impact on natural resources. We followed 303 households living on Lake Victoria, Kenya over four time points to examine how illness influenced fishing. Using fixed effect conditional logit models to control for individual-level and time-invariant factors, we analyzed the effect of illness on fishing effort and methods. Illness among individuals who listed fishing as their primary occupation affected their participation in fishing. However, among active fishers, we found limited evidence that illness reduced fishing effort. Instead, ill fishers shifted their fishing methods. When ill, fishers were more likely to use methods that were illegal, destructive, and concentrated in inshore areas but required less travel and energy. Ill fishers were also less likely to fish using legal methods that are physically demanding, require travel to deep waters, and are considered more sustainable. By altering the physical capacity and outlook of fishers, human illness shifted their effort, their engagement with natural resources, and the sustainability of their actions. These findings show a previously unexplored pathway through which poor human health may negatively impact the environment.
Plants are important in urban environments for removing pathogens and improving water quality. Seagrass meadows are the most widespread coastal ecosystem on the planet. Although these plants are known to be associated with natural biocide production, they have not been evaluated for their ability to remove microbiological contamination. Using amplicon sequencing of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene, we found that when seagrass meadows are present, there was a 50% reduction in the relative abundance of potential bacterial pathogens capable of causing disease in humans and marine organisms. Moreover, field surveys of more than 8000 reef-building corals located adjacent to seagrass meadows showed twofold reductions in disease levels compared to corals at paired sites without adjacent seagrass meadows. These results highlight the importance of seagrass ecosystems to the health of humans and other organisms.