Anthropogenic stressors such as climate change, increased fire frequency, and pollution drive shifts in ecosystem function and resilience. Scientists generally rely on biological indicators of these stressors to signal that ecosystem conditions have been altered. However, these biological indicators are not always capable of being directly related to ecosystem components that provide benefits to humans and/or can be used to evaluate the cost-benefit of a change in health of the component (ecosystem services). Therefore, we developed the STEPS (Stressor–Ecological Production function–final ecosystem Services) Framework to link changes in a biological indicator of a stressor to final ecosystem services. The STEPS Framework produces “chains” of ecological components that explore the breadth of impacts resulting from the change in a stressor. Chains are comprised of the biological indicator, the ecological production function (EPF, which uses ecological components to link the biological indicator to a final ecosystem service), and the user group who directly uses, appreciates, or values the component. The framework uses a qualitative score (high, medium, low) to describe the strength of science (SOS) for the relationship between each component in the EPF. We tested the STEPS Framework within a workshop setting using the exceedance of critical loads of air pollution as a model stressor and the Final Ecosystem Goods and Services Classification System (FEGS-CS) to describe final ecosystem services. We identified chains for four modes of ecological response to deposition: aquatic acidification, aquatic eutrophication, terrestrial acidification, and terrestrial eutrophication. The workshop participants identified 183 unique EPFs linking a change in a biological indicator to a FEGS; when accounting for the multiple beneficiaries, we ended with 1104 chains. The SOS scores were effective in identifying chains with the highest confidence ranking as well as those where more research is needed. The STEPS Framework could be adapted to any system in which a stressor is modifying a biological component. The results of the analysis can be used by the social science community to apply valuation measures to multiple or selected chains, providing a comprehensive analysis of the effects of anthropogenic stressors on measures of human well-being.
The mental health consequences of disasters, including oil spills, are well known. The goal of this study is to examine whether social capital and social support mediate the effects of exposure to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on depression among women. Data for the analysis come from the first wave of data collection for the Women and Their Children's Health Study, a longitudinal study of the health effects of women exposed to the oil spill in southern Louisiana, USA. Women were interviewed about their exposure to the oil spill, depression symptoms, structural social capital (neighborhood organization participation), cognitive social capital (sense of community and informal social control), and social support. Structural equation models indicated that structural social capital was associated with increased levels of cognitive social capital, which were associated with higher levels of social support, which in turn were associated with lower levels of depression. Physical exposure to the oil spill was associated with greater economic exposure, which in turn was associated with higher levels of depression. When all variables were taken into account, economic exposure was no longer associated with depression, and social support and cognitive social capital mediated the effect of economic exposure on depression, explaining 67% of the effect. Findings support an extension of the deterioration model of social support to include the additional coping resource of social capital. Social capital and social support were found to be beneficial for depression post-oil spill; however, they were themselves negatively impacted by the oil spill, explaining the overall negative effect of the oil spill on depression. A better understanding of the pathways between the social context and depression could lead to interventions for improved mental health in the aftermath of a disaster.
Environmental pollution is a global problem and the subject of increasing worldwide public health concern.1 In particular, air pollution is regarded as the largest single environmental risk to health. More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the WHO limits, and all regions of the world are affected. Declines in urban air quality increase the risk of cerebrovascular accidents, coronary artery disease, lung carcinoma, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases (eg, asthma, obstructive lung disease, and acute lower respiratory infections).
Naturalistic environments have been demonstrated to promote relaxation and wellbeing. We assess opposing theoretical accounts for these effects through investigation of autonomic arousal and alterations of activation and functional connectivity within the default mode network (DMN) of the brain while participants listened to sounds from artificial and natural environments. We found no evidence for increased DMN activity in the naturalistic compared to artificial or control condition, however, seed based functional connectivity showed a shift from anterior to posterior midline functional coupling in the naturalistic condition. These changes were accompanied by an increase in peak high frequency heart rate variability, indicating an increase in parasympathetic activity in the naturalistic condition in line with the Stress Recovery Theory of nature exposure. Changes in heart rate and the peak high frequency were correlated with baseline functional connectivity within the DMN and baseline parasympathetic tone respectively, highlighting the importance of individual neural and autonomic differences in the response to nature exposure. Our findings may help explain reported health benefits of exposure to natural environments, through identification of alterations to autonomic activity and functional coupling within the DMN when listening to naturalistic sounds.
Few studies focus on environment in its biological dimension, relating territorial/landscape alteration and human health, beyond pollution impact. The growing importance of risk factors in medicine and the new ecological advancements in Landscape Bionomics impose to deepen these studies. The landscape is a living entity, in which man and territory form a complex biological level of life organization. So, a landscape must be investigated in its physiology and behaviour by the discipline of Landscape Bionomics. This to check “if”, “how” and “how much” landscape alterations could reflect on human health, independently form pollution. First evidences of a clear correlation subsist, concerning an increase of mortality rate within Milan hinterland (Italy). The Landscape dysfunctions are correlated with the increase of mortality rate MR. All the environmental alterations are registered as ‘stressors’ by a basilar ethological alarm process. So, bionomic landscape dysfunctions may attempt our health bringing to an excess of cortisol, which reduces our hormonal, immune and nervous system defences. This enlarges the W.H.O. estimation of the environmental MR and the importance of applications impose a true effort in landscape rehabilitation.
Youth depression is a major risk factor for suicide, and a leading cause of disability worldwide,1–3hence its impact is both devastating and substantial. Although researchers have suggested several potential causal factors that contribute to the development of youth depression including genetic loading, low socioeconomic status, and adverse life events,2 the impact of climate change remains relatively unexplored. In the past three decades, global annual surface temperatures have increased by approximately 0·2°C per decade, giving rise to concerns for planetary and environmental human health.