Agarwala M, Atkinson G, Fry PB, Homewood K, Mourato S, Rowcliffe JM, Wallace G, Milner-Gulland EJ. Assessing the Relationship Between Human Well-being and Ecosystem Services: A Review of Frameworks. Conservation and Society [Internet]. 2014;12 (4) :437-449. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Focusing on the most impoverished populations, we critically review and synthesise key themes from dominant frameworks for assessing the relationship between well-being and ecosystem services in developing countries. This requires a differentiated approach to conceptualising well-being that appropriately reflects the perspectives of the poorest–those most directly dependent on ecosystem services, and their vulnerability to external and policy-driven environmental change. The frameworks analysed draw upon environmental sciences, economics, psychology, sociology, and anthropology, and were selected on the basis of their demonstrated or potential ability to illustrate the relationship between environmental change and human well-being, as well as their prevalence in real world applications. Thus, the synthesis offered here is informed by the various theoretical, methodological, and hermeneutical contributions from each field to the notion of well-being. The review highlights several key dimensions that should be considered by those interested in understanding and assessing the impact of environmental change on the well-being of the world’s poorest people: the importance of interdisciplinary consideration of well-being, the need for frameworks that integrate subjective and objective aspects of well-being, and the central importance of context and relational aspects of well-being. The review is of particular interest to those engaged in the post-2015 development agenda. 

    Moyo M, Aremu AO, Staden JV. Medicinal Plants: An Invaluable, Dwindling Resource in sub-Saharan Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology [Internet]. 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Ethnopharmacological relevance: The use of plant species for different therapeutic/medicinal purposes is well-entrenched in sub-Saharan Africa.
    Aim of the review: To provide a critical and updated review of the enormous medicinal plant heritage in sub-Sahara Africa with regards to the abundance, importance, conservation status and potential means to help sustain their availability for future generations.

    Methods: A comprehensive literature search involving different online databases, books and thesis were conducted in order to obtain, collate and synthesize available information on various fundamental aspects pertaining to African medicinal plants.
    Results: African biodiversity hotspots are endowed with a high level of endemic species with a significant portion possessing medicinal value. Apart from the extensive ethnobotanical uses of medicinal plants found in Africa, scientific validation of their biological potential such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic properties have been recognized. Together with the demand arising from their biological efficacies, other anthropogenic factors are exerting conservation strains of the wild population of these medicinal plants. Even though researchers have acknowledged the importance and value of conserving these medicinal plants, several challenges have hampered these efforts on the Continent as a whole.

    Conclusions: The rich flora occurring in sub-Saharan Africa suggests enormous potential for discovery of new chemical entity with therapeutic value. However, concerted efforts focused on documenting the conservation status of African medicinal plants are pertinent. Application of different biotechnological techniques is needed to sustain these valuable botanical entities, especially to meet increasing pharmaceutical demand. Most importantly, increased public enlightenment and awareness may help eradicate the prejudice against cultivation of medicinal plants. 

    Hough RL. Biodiversity and Human Health: Evidence for Causality. Biodivers Conserv [Internet]. 2014;23 :267-288. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and other commentators have warned about the impacts that biodiversity decline will have on human health. There is no doubting that the natural world provides mankind with the majority of the resources required to sustain life and health. Many species provide food, fuel, medicines; with the potential for many more (as of yet) undiscovered uses for various species. Despite this, there have been very few attempts to actually investigate relationships between biodiversity (i.e. number of species, rather than the ability of specific species to provide health benefits) and human health. This paper reviews the available evidence and demonstrates that while the links between biodiversity and health seem intuitive, they are very difficult to prove. Socio- economics has a huge influence on health status and the exploitation of natural resources (leading to eventual biodiversity loss) tends to have a positive economic effects. More direct effects of biodiversity on health include the diversity of the internal microbiome, the effect of natural diversity on our mental health and well-being (although this has large social aspects with many people feeling fearful in very diverse environments). Still to be elucidated are the tipping points where the level of global biodiversity loss is such that human health can no longer be sustained. 

    Zaghi D, Calaciura B, Spinelli O, Basili M, Romi R. Literature Study on the Impact of Biodiversity Changes on Human Health. Comunita Ambiente; 2010. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Maintaining biodiversity underpins the stability of ecosystems and the services that they supply to the community, such as food, drinking water, clean air, control of disease and raw materials for the development of medicinal drugs. These are essential to human health.

    The objective of this literature study is to provide an overview of existing information concerning the impacts of changes in biodiversity and ecosystems on two services related to human health: regulation of infectious diseases and provision of medicines. 

    Rook GA. Regulation of the Immune System by Biodiversity from the Natural Environment: An Ecosystem Service Essential to Health. PNAS [Internet]. 2013;110 (46) :18360-18367. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Epidemiological studies suggest that living close to the natural environment is associated with long-term health benefits including reduced death rates, reduced cardiovascular disease, and reduced psychiatric problems. This is often attributed to psychological mechanisms, boosted by exercise, social interactions, and sunlight. Compared with urban environments, exposure to green spaces does indeed trigger rapid psychological, physiological, and endocrinological effects. However, there is little evidence that these rapid transient effects cause long-term health benefits or even that they are a specific property of natural environments. Meanwhile, the illnesses that are increasing in high-income countries are associated with failing immunoregulation and poorly regulated inflammatory responses, manifested as chronically raised C-reactive protein and proinflammatory cytokines. This failure of immunoregulation is partly attributable to a lack of exposure to organisms (Old Friends) from mankinds evolutionary past that needed to be tolerated and therefore evolved roles in driving immunoregulatory mechanisms. Some Old Friends (such as helminths and infections picked up at birth that established carrier states) are almost eliminated from the urban environment. This increases our dependence on Old Friends derived from our mothers, other people, animals, and the environment. It is suggested that the requirement for microbial input from the environment to drive immunoregulation is a major component of the beneficial effect of green space, and a neglected ecosystem service that is essential for our well-being. This insight will allow green spaces to be designed to optimize health benefits and will provide impetus from health systems for the preservation of ecosystem biodiversity. 

    Smith KF, Guegan JF. Changing Geographic Distributions of Human Pathogens. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics [Internet]. 2010;41 :231-250. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Since the rise of modern humans, changes in demography, land use and frequent contact with wildlife and domesticated animals have created on- going opportunities for pathogen loss, gain, and evolution in the human population. Early transportation networks and population expansion cre- ated a world where many human-specific pathogens are now ubiquitous, yet zoonoses continue to emerge as humans encroach into the last remaining wild areas, increase livestock production, and plug into vast global trade net- works. Pathogens are exploiting almost any change in human ecology that provides new opportunities for transmission, the most recent being rampant use of antibiotics resulting in new multidrug-resistant pathogens. Public health advances have benefitted some, but others continue to suffer from pathogens long eradicated by developed nations. Generalities of pathogen occurrence aid in disease prediction, but a systemic approach incorporating ecology, biogeography, public health, and conservation biology is ultimately necessary to fully comprehend the changing geographic distributions of hu- man pathogens. 

    Hales S, Kovats S, Lloyd S, Campbell-Lendrum D ed. Quantitative risk assessment of the effects of climate change on selected causes of death, 2030s and 2050s. World Health Organization; 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    WHO releases a quantitative assessment of the health impacts of climate change. This constitutes an update and a further development of the assessment that was first published by WHO for the year 2000, now with a wider range of health impacts, and projections for future years.

    The assessment takes into account a subset of the possible health impacts, and assumes continued economic growth and health progress. Even under these conditions, it concludes that climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050; 38 000 due to heat exposure in elderly people, 48 000 due to diarrhoea, 60 000 due to malaria, and 95 000 due to childhood undernutrition. Results indicate that the burden of disease from climate change in the future will continue to fall mainly on children in developing countries, but that other population groups will be increasingly affected.

    Bouzid M, Hooper L, Hunter PR. The effectiveness of public health interventions to reduce the health impact of climate change: a systematic review of systematic reviews. PLoS One [Internet]. 2013;8 (4) :e62041. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    BACKGROUND: Climate change is likely to be one of the most important threats to public health in the coming years. Yet despite the large number of papers considering the health impact of climate change, few have considered what public health interventions may be of most value in reducing the disease burden. We aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of public health interventions to reduce the disease burden of high priority climate sensitive diseases. METHODS AND FINDINGS: For each disease, we performed a systematic search with no restriction on date or language of publication on Medline, Web of Knowledge, Cochrane CENTRAL and SCOPUS up to December 2010 to identify systematic reviews of public health interventions. We retrieved some 3176 records of which 85 full papers were assessed and 33 included in the review. The included papers investigated the effect of public health interventions on various outcome measures. All interventions were GRADE assessed to determine the strength of evidence. In addition we developed a systematic review quality score. The interventions included environmental interventions to control vectors, chemoprophylaxis, immunization, household and community water treatment, greening cities and community advice. For most reviews, GRADE showed low quality of evidence because of poor study design and high heterogeneity. Also for some key areas such as floods, droughts and other weather extremes, there are no adequate systematic reviews of potential public health interventions. CONCLUSION: In conclusion, we found the evidence base to be mostly weak for environmental interventions that could have the most value in a warmer world. Nevertheless, such interventions should not be dismissed. Future research on public health interventions for climate change adaptation needs to be concerned about quality in study design and should address the gap for floods, droughts and other extreme weather events that pose a risk to health.

    Srinivasan V, Lambin EF, Gorelick SM, Thompson BH, Rozelle S. The nature and causes of the global water crisis: Syndromes from a meta-analysis of coupled human-water studies. Water Resources Research. 2012.Abstract

    Freshwater scarcity has been cited as the major crisis of the 21st century, but it is surprisingly hard to describe the nature of the global water crisis. We conducted a meta-analysis of 22 coupled human-water system case studies, using qualitative comparison analysis (QCA) to identify water resource system outcomes and the factors that drive them. The cases exhibited different outcomes for human wellbeing that could be grouped into a six "syndromes": groundwater depletion, ecological destruction, drought-driven conflicts, unmet subsistence needs, resource capture by elite, and water reallocation to nature. For syndromes that were not successful adaptations, three characteristics gave cause for concern: (1) unsustainability-a decline in the water stock or ecosystem function that could result in a long-term steep decline in future human wellbeing; (2) vulnerability-high variability in water resource availability combined with inadequate coping capacity, leading to temporary drops in human wellbeing; (3) chronic scarcity-persistent inadequate access and hence low conditions of human wellbeing. All syndromes could be explained by a limited set of causal factors that fell into four categories: demand changes, supply changes, governance systems, and infrastructure/technology. By considering basins as members of syndrome classes and tracing common causal pathways of water crises, water resource analysts and planners might develop improved water policies aimed at reducing vulnerability, inequity, and unsustainability of freshwater systems.

    Tang B, Liu X, Liu Y, Xue C, Zhang L. A meta-analysis of risk factors for depression in adults and children after natural disasters. BMC Public Health [Internet]. 2014;14 :623. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    BACKGROUND: A number of studies have shown a range of negative psychological symptoms (e.g. depression) after exposure to natural disasters. The aim of this study was to determine risk factors for depression in both children and adults who have survived natural disasters. METHODS: Four electronic databases (PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and PsychInfo) were used to search for observational studies (case-control, cross-sectional, and cohort studies) about depression following natural disasters. The literature search, study selection, and data extraction were conducted independently by two authors. Thirty-one articles were included in the study, of which twenty included adult participants and eleven included child participants. Summary estimates were obtained using random-effects models. Subgroup analysis, sensitivity analysis, and publication bias tests were performed on the data. RESULTS: The prevalence of depression after natural disasters ranged from 5.8% to 54.0% in adults and from 7.5% to 44.8% in children. We found a number of risk factors for depression after exposure to natural disasters. For adults, the significant predictors were being female ;not married;holding religious beliefs; having poor education; prior trauma; experiencing fear, injury, or bereavement during the disaster; or losing employment or property, suffering house damage as a result of the disaster. For children, the significant predictors were prior trauma; being trapped during the disaster; experiencing injury, fear, or bereavement during the disaster; witnessing injury/death during the disaster; or having poor social support. CONCLUSIONS: The current analysis provides evidence of risk factors for depression in survivors of natural disasters. Further research is necessary to design interventions to improve the mental health of survivors of natural disasters.

    Hartig T, Mitchell R, de Vries S, Frumkin H. Nature and health. Annu Rev Public Health. 2014;35 :207-28.Abstract

    Urbanization, resource exploitation, and lifestyle changes have diminished possibilities for human contact with nature in urbanized societies. Concern about the loss has helped motivate research on the health benefits of contact with nature. Reviewing that research here, we focus on nature as represented by aspects of the physical environment relevant to planning, design, and policy measures that serve broad segments of urbanized societies. We discuss difficulties in defining "nature" and reasons for the current expansion of the research field, and we assess available reviews. We then consider research on pathways between nature and health involving air quality, physical activity, social cohesion, and stress reduction. Finally, we discuss methodological issues and priorities for future research. The extant research does describe an array of benefits of contact with nature, and evidence regarding some benefits is strong; however, some findings indicate caution is needed in applying beliefs about those benefits, and substantial gaps in knowledge remain.

    A Multidisciplinary Approach to Examining the Links (meeting proceedings). Protection Agency/ National Center for Environmental Research (EPA/NCER) Biodiversity and Human Health: EPA/NCER; 2006. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    EPA/NCER has proposed a joint Ecosystem-Health Research Program to study the links between changes in biodiversity and risks to human health. In cosponsorship with Yale University’s Center for EcoEpidemiology, the Smithsonian Institution, and the World Conservation Union, EPA/NCER convened a forum to discuss the state of the science, refine research priorities, and how to integrate existing data into a monitoring and risk-forecasting network to prevent or significantly mitigate risks of human disease and threats to biodiversity. Priority themes included: epidemiology and vector ecology; climate change, biodiversity, and health; wildlife trade and the spread of exotics and disease; pharmacopeia; the role of biodiversity in natural catastrophes; and valuation of biodiversity for public health. 

    This summary is not an official abstract. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract 

    Grifo F, Rosenthal J. Biodiversity and Human Health. Island Press; 1997. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    This book examines how biodiversity loss affects the spread of human diseases, causes a loss of medical models, diminishes the supplies of raw materials for drug discovery and biotechnology and threatens food production and water quality. 

    This summary is not an official abstract. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract 

    Centre IDR. Enhanced Human Well-Being through Livestock and Natural Resource Management (East African Highlands). IDRC Research Project; 2002. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Livestock in the East African Highlands provide food as well as income, fuel, and draught power but poor animal management has contributed to land degradation. Though a systems approach using an "agro-ecosystem health paradigm" this project determined which natural resource management could better lead to improved health for women, men and children. This summary is not an official abstract. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract

    Hernández-Mora G. Neurobrucellosis in stranded dolphins. Costa Rica Emerg Infect Dis; 2008.Abstract

    Increased contact between cetaceans and humans has augmented the transmission risk of pathogenic brucellosis, a zoonosis of terrestrial and marine mammals, to people. This report documents the presence of marine brucellosis along Latin American shorelines and risk to people handling infected dolphins returning them to the ocean. Other stranded dolphins have been slaughtered as a food source for humans and domestic animals posing risk of zoonosis. This summary is not an official abstract. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract

    Thomas F, Renaud F, Guégan JF. Parasitism and Ecosystems. Oxford University Press; 2005. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    This book summarizes current knowledge on the dynamics of parasites in ecosystems and the diversity of ways in which they influence ecosystem functioning through their effects on host populations and communities. This summary is not an official abstract. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract

    Levy K, Daily GC, Myers SS. Ecosystem Services & Human Health: A Conceptual Framework. in The Role of Ecology in Poverty Reduction (eds, Ingram JC, DeClerk F, Rumbaitis-del Rio C).; 2010. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    The authors explore how ecosystem conditions and human health are directly linked to identify practical and reliable indicators of ecosystem condition / function that i) signal levels of risk to human health or ii) whether change in certain ecosystem attributes (size, configuration, composition) reliably translate into changes in health risks. Examples of adverse health impacts from deteriorating ecosystem services include i) how draining swamps reduces malaria mosquito vector habitat and ii) how ecosystems help purify and regulate drinking water flow for which substitutes are not available at the required scale. The authors also explain why epidemiological evidence for these relationships is difficult to establish. This summary is not an official abstract. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract

    Goldberg TL. Patterns of Gastrointestinal Bacterial Exchange between Chimpanzees and Humans involved in Research and Tourism in Western Uganda. Biological Conservation [Internet]. 2007;135 :511-517. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Ecological overlap may increase risk of microbial exchange between humans and wild non-human primates. E. coli were collected from chimpanzees and humans in Kibale, Uganda to examine whether interaction between humans and apes in the wild might affect gastrointestinal bacterial communities in the two species. Chimpanzees harbored bacteria genetically more similar to those of humans involved in chimpanzee-directed research and tourism than to those of humans from a local village. Most humans (81.6%) and 4.4% of chimpanzees harbored at least one isolate resistant to locally available antibiotics. These data indicate that 31 humans and apes interacting in the wild can share genetically and phenotypically similar gastrointestinal bacteria, presumably originating from common environmental sources. This summary is not an official abstract. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract

    Jak M. A "One Health'' Approach to Address Emerging Zoonoses: The HALI Project in Tanzania. PLoS Med [Internet]. 2009;6 :12. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Every day thousands die from under-diagnosed diseases that have arisen at the human–animal–environment interface, especially diarrheal and respiratory diseases in developing countries. Water resources in these countries are particularly crucial as humans and animals depend on safe water for health and survival, and sources of clean water are dwindling due to demands from agriculture and global climate change. Water scarcity means that people and animals use the same water sources for drinking and bathing which results in serious contamination of drinking water and increased risk of zoonotic diseases. The interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health is at the heart of One Health, an increasingly important prism through which governments, nongovernmental organizations, and practitioners view human health. The authors present an example of how this approach is being applied in a project in Tanzania. This summary is not an official abstract. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract