Biodiversity and climate change:key factors for human health

    Biodiversity and climate change:key factors for human health

    In "Air, water, places", Hippocrates, considered the father of Western medicine, played a fundamental role in understanding the link between environment and health. This connection is even more relevant in the modern world, with phenomena such as heat waves, natural disasters and air pollution.

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    11/04/2024Of Sara Moraca
    11/04/2024Of Sara Moraca

    Biodiversity and human health: which are the connections?

    Biodiversity plays a crucial role in human life, although we often don't realize how important it is. Our health directly depends on the ecosystem services that natural ecosystems provide, such as drinking water, food and energy resources. Biodiversity loss can have significant impacts on our health, as ecosystem services become less capable of meeting our social needs. These changes can affect our livelihoods, our income and even our political stability. Furthermore, biological diversity, which includes microorganisms, plants and animals, is also valuable for scientific and medical research. Many fundamental discoveries in medicine arise from our understanding of biodiversity. The loss of this diversity may limit our ability to discover new treatments for diseases, as it reduces the natural resources available for pharmaceutical research. Therefore, protecting biodiversity is not only important for preserving ecosystems, but also for promoting our health and scientific progress.


    Medicine and biodiversity: a crucial relationship

    Traditional medicine continues to be an essential reference for primary healthcare around the world. It is estimated that 60% of the world's population uses traditional medicine practices, which in many countries are fully integrated into public health systems. Among these practices, the use of medicinal plants is one of the most widespread and consolidated therapeutic methods. Medicinal plants are obtained either through collection from natural habitats or through cultivation. Many communities depend on these natural resources not only for medical purposes, but also for cultural and food purposes. Despite the wide availability of synthetic medicines, there is still a strong global demand for natural products for medicinal use. This demand not only translates into the direct use of natural remedies, but also into biomedical research, which often relies on plants, animals and microbes to understand human physiology and develop innovative treatments for human diseases.


    How the biodiversity feeds us

    Biodiversity plays a crucial role in ensuring food security and human nutrition, as it is critical for sustainable food production and the provision of vital genetic resources for crops, livestock and marine species harvested for human consumption. The biological diversity of soils supports their long-term productivity, while genetic diversity within plant and animal species is essential for adapting to environmental changes and agronomic challenges. Access to a wide range of nutritious foods is essential to ensuring a balanced diet and good health, playing a crucial role in preventing nutritional deficiencies and related diseases. The connection between nutrition and biodiversity extends to different levels. At the ecosystem level, food production itself is considered an ecosystem service that depends on biological diversity. Species within the ecosystem and the genetic diversity within these species contribute to the resilience of ecosystems.


    Infectious diseases and spillover, what is happening?

    Human activities alter ecosystems, compromising biodiversity and interactions between organisms and the environment. This impacts infectious disease models. Deforestation, land use changes, water management and climate change are among the main drivers. Pesticide resistance and globalization also play a role. Accidental or intentional introduction of pathogens is an additional risk. For example, some studies have identified hotspots where agriculture, livestock farming and deforestation are reducing the distance between humans and animals that carry SARS-type viruses. Studies of this type allow us to better understand phenomena such as spillovers, i.e. the natural process by which an animal pathogen evolves and becomes capable of infecting, reproducing and transmitting within the human species.


    Biodiversity and climate change

    Biodiversity plays also a critical role in supporting ecosystem services that are essential for human well-being, both now and in the future. One of the key factors influencing biodiversity and ecosystem functioning is climate. Climate impacts terrestrial and marine ecosystems directly and indirectly. In marine ecosystems, biodiversity is significantly affected by ocean acidification, primarily driven by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This acidification poses a threat to marine life, particularly organisms with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons. As these organisms form the foundation of marine food webs, declines in their populations can have cascading effects on entire ecosystems, ultimately impacting fisheries, coastal protection, and tourism. On land, biodiversity is influenced by various climate-related factors, including extreme weather events such as droughts and floods.

    climate change

    The health impact of climate change

    The findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) underscore the urgent need for action, revealing that climate risks are manifesting faster and with greater severity than previously anticipated. Moreover, adapting to these challenges becomes increasingly difficult as global heating intensifies. Alarmingly, the report highlights that 3.6 billion people currently reside in regions highly vulnerable to climate change. Despite their minimal contributions to global emissions, low-income countries and small island developing states (SIDS) bear the brunt of these impacts. In these vulnerable areas, the mortality rate from extreme weather events over the past decade was 15 times higher compared to less vulnerable regions. The repercussions of climate change on human health are multifaceted. They include a rise in mortality and morbidity due to more frequent and intense extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms, and floods.


    So, what is the solution?

    Mitigating climate change not only addresses environmental concerns but also offers unparalleled opportunities for enhancing public health. The policies designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions hold the potential to yield significant health dividends, including reductions in heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, road fatalities and injuries, as well as air pollution-related ailments. These health benefits stem from the inherent impact of climate change policies on two critical determinants of health: human nutrition and physical activity.  Failing to acknowledge the profound health advantages associated with climate change mitigation could lead to severe environmental repercussions. Therefore, understanding and prioritizing these health co-benefits is imperative, as it not only reduces societal costs but also ensures a healthier and more sustainable future for all.


    3Bee: Technology for the protection of biodiversity

    3Bee is the naturetech company developing technologies for monitoring, protecting and regenerating biodiversity. Starting with the bee, a fundamental bioindicator, 3Bee collects and interprets environmental data through innovative proprietary systems to monitor the health of pollinators and their connection to ecosystems.
    - Want to find out how to monitor the biodiversity of your production site through technology? Go to the innovative Element-E biodiversity monitoring protocol.
    - Do you want to learn about leading esg-training-for-companies-5-things-to-know" target="_blank">innovative ESG training solutions and programs for your company? Learn about the 3Bee Edu program.
    - Want to learn more about creating Europe's largest ecological corridor for pollinators? esg/the-oases-business/" target="_blank">Visit 3Bee's Biodiversity Oases.

    11/04/2024Of Sara Moraca
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