Biodiversity, Ecosystem Processes and Human Health

What we don't know could harm us

It's no secret that humans are dramatically altering the global environment. However, we are beginning to understand that a shifting climate, widespread deforestation, losses in biodiversity and a greatly enriched nitrogen cycle can change ecosystems in ways that directly influence our health. In the symposium, "Biodiversity, ecosystem processes, and human health" scientists will discuss how human-driven changes in biodiversity and ecosystem processes can affect human health, and how ecologists can help understand and potentially mitigate these negative effects.

Osvaldo Sala (Brown University) will open the press conference.

Malaria has recently resurged in the Amazon Basin, where deforestation has dramatically changed the landscape. Jonathan Patz (University of Wisconsin Madison) and colleague Amy Vittor (Stanford University) spent a year studying the Peruvian Amazon and found biting rates of a particular mosquito were 200 times higher in deforested areas than areas that were predominately forested. Patz will discuss the impact of tropical rainforest destruction on malaria in his presentation, "Deforestation, mosquito biodiversity, and the increase of malaria in the Amazon."

Human activities, especially agriculture and development, have altered the cycle of nitrogen (N) through soil, air, and water. Usually the associated health concerns focus upon risks to drinking water. Yet the full scope and impact on people of the altered global N cycle largely escapes the attention of a wider audience. Alan Townsend (University of Colorado) will present the talk "Brown clouds, green water, and red herrings: Human health effects of an altered nitrogen cycle," focusing on environmentally-harbored diseases. There is growing evidence that N-enrichment of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems is associated with shifts in the prevalence of wildlife, livestock, crop and human diseases.

Usually considered a disease source only in tropical and less developed countries, little research has been done to understand the full impact of soil organisms as causal agents of human illness. Diana Wall (Colorado State University) will discuss the importance of improving our understanding of soil microbes and fauna in her talk, "Soil Biodiversity and links to human health." According to Wall, disturbances to soil can impact ecosystem functioning, alter soil biodiversity, and sometimes is associated with the loss of ecosystem services, such as the control of pathogens.

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The Press Conference will be held at 4:30 PM, Wednesday, August 9, 2006 in Room 202 at the Cook Convention Center in Memphis, Tennessee. Media interested in attending please contact annie@esa.org. Symposium 17 will take place Thursday August 10, 8 AM 11:30 AM in Ballroom B, Cook Convention Center. Organized by: Alan Townsend (alan.townsend@colorado.edu) and Osvaldo Sala (osvaldo_sala @brown.edu)


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