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Montira Pongsiri, PhD, MPH U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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Presentation on theme: "Montira Pongsiri, PhD, MPH U.S. Environmental Protection Agency"— Presentation transcript:

1 Task Update HE-09-03c Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Health: Decision-Support Tools and Research
Montira Pongsiri, PhD, MPH U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 16 November 2009 Even under uncertainty and with imperfect information, there are environmental signals that we should pay attention to, related to human health security. I’m going to be talking about research linking ecosystems, biodiversity, and infectious diseases as an example of a public health issue that demands an interdisciplinary approach, including decision-makers, to studying it. As we better understand the causal chain of disease emergence through this approach, there may be new opportunities to reduce and prevent disease.

2 Outline Background Interdisciplinary Approach Research Projects
Community of Practice Anticipated Results, Links to Decision-Making Background – describe the problem as we see it The approach we are taking to address the problem Leading research questions to advance knowledge in this area and help close science-policy gap so that we can make better decisions Research projects Expected results we hope to achieve through long-term basic research and pilot projects

3 as provided by the diversity of life on earth
Ecosystem Services As provided by the diversity of life on earth Ecosystem Services as provided by the diversity of life on earth Provisioning Services Food Freshwater Wood and fiber Fuel Clean Air Medicines Regulating Services Climate regulation Flood regulation Disease regulation Water purification Cultural Services Aesthetic Cultural Recreational Spiritual An ecosystem is a community formed by… Biodiversity is the variety… and it also refers to the variety of ecosystems found in… The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) An international process designed to meet the needs of decision-makers and the public for scientific information concerning the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being, and to analyze options available to enhance the conservation of ecosystems and their contributions to meeting human needs Conserving biodiversity is a primary way to sustain healthy ecosystems and the services they provide, which we depend on for health, well-being and development. This is what the environment does for us. One service we are trying to better characterize through our program is disease regulation. But we recognize that this is one of many important services, and in the future, we hope to be involved in research on the role of biodiversity in extreme weather events, food security, etc. Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms, often understood in terms of the wide variety of plants, animals and microorganisms, and also including genetic differences within each species Another aspect of biodiversity is the variety of ecosystems that occur in deserts, forests, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers, and agricultural landscapes. In each ecosystem, living creatures, including humans, form a community, interacting with one another and with the environment around them. Biodiversity loss is a decline in the extent, condition or sustainable productivity of ecosystems, and a decline in abundance, distribution or sustainable use of species populations and extinctions. (Convention on Biological Diversity, UNEP) Most studies on biodiversity tend to focus on species diversity, because the causes, patterns and consequences of changes in diversity at this level are relatively well documented. Species diversity has functional consequences, because the number and kinds of species present determine the organismal traits that influence ecosystem processes. The components of species diversity that determine this expression of traits include the number of species present (species richness), their relative abundances (species evenness), the particular species present (species composition), the interactions among species and the temporal and spatial variation in these properties (Chapin 2000). In addition to its effects on the functioning of ecosystems, species diversity can influence the resilience and resistance of ecosystems to environmental change. It is believed that biodiversity provides “insurance”- the more species that exist, the more stable, resilient and productive ecosystems are (Wilson 2002). Others believe that biodiversity is not always critical for ecosystem functioning under constant and benign conditions, but may be important for maintaining functions under changing conditions (Loreau 2001) and in reducing severe risks (Myers 1996). Supporting Services Nutrient cycling Primary production Soil formation Adapted from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005.

4 Biodiversity loss is accelerating
From WWF, “Living Planet Report,” 2006. But in the last 50 years, we have changed ecosystems to an unprecedented degree, reducing biodiversity and putting ecosystem services at risk. Overall trends in the popns of wild vertebrate species across terr… around the world and over time show a decline of almost 40% from

5 Infectious diseases appear to be emerging and re-emerging at a faster rate
What are the underlying mechanisms, and do changes in biodiversity, specifically changes in the abundance, composition, distribution of animal hosts and vectors – do these changes play a role in the emergence of infectious disease? USE NEW NATURE 2008 figures from Jones et al. Disease agents with much of their life cycle occurring outside of the human host (water and vector-borne) are subjected to environmental conditions, and it is these diseases for which most linkages to ecosystem conditions have been found (MEA p394 Patz 2000). A new WHO study (2006) confirms that almost ¼ or the global disease burden, and more than 1/3 of the burden among children, is due to modifiable environmental factors (most notably, diarrhea, lower respiratory infections and malaria). Knowledge on environment-health interactions can help in the design of more effective, cost-effective, preventive and public health strategies that reduce corresponding risks to health, and can result in multiple benefits – environmental approaches can alleviate health burden. Non-health sectors can impact many of the root environmental factors of disease (air, water quality, energy use, land use, urban design) which affect health and behavior directly and indirectly – so, many of the same health sector and non-health sector measures that reduce environmental risks and exposures can also generate other co-benefits (improved quality of life and well-being, improved opps for education and employment). Burden is disproportionately higher in developing world than the developed countries. Mark Woolhouse, as part of a panel on “Infections from Animals: Assessing the Risks of Zoonotic Diseases” at this year’s AAAS Meeting in St. Louis, spoke about his work on modeling the transmission of zoonotic agents to humans. BBC News 2/24/06 – Humans are accumulating new pathogens at a rate of one/year (38 documented jumps over the past 25 years – viruses, bacteria, parasites, protozoa, fungi), at a relatively fast rate – most of these new infectious diseases are zoonotic. New infectious diseases include: (177 or the 1407 pathogens catalogued are considered emerging or re-emerging) Newly emerging: HIV, SARS Re-emerging: WNV, malaria, dengue Emerging disease refers to recent increase in incidence (last years) , impact or geographic or hose range; or, recently evolved (durg-resistant malaria). There seems to be something special about modern times for pathogens crossing over into humans. It could be a case of better surveillance, but it could also be the way humans are interacting with other animals in their environment (b/c of changes in land use, deforestation, agricultural practice, global travel, trade). According to Anthony Fauci, there is a perpetual struggle as pathogens evolve ways to get around control strategies – they have the ability to persist, emerge and re-emerge. It’s a dynamic situation, and will continue to be (BBC News). Therefore, public health measures need to be applied continuously based on timely surveillance and monitoring. * Modified from Morens et al Nature 430:242

6 Interdisciplinary Forum and Workshop on Biodiversity and Human Health September US EPA, Yale Center for EcoEpidemiology, Smithsonian Institution, World Conservation Union Outreach effort Interdisciplinary participation Encouraged interdisciplinary collaboration, in the U.S. and internationally Workshop discussions on case studies and mechanisms, research priorities, & types of data and models needed to map biodiversity change and emerging diseases In co-sponsorship with… bringing together researchers, practitioners, managers in ecology, health, remote sensing, and the social sciences to discuss the state of the science, not just related to biodiversity and infectious disease, but also to the role of biodiversity in extreme weather events, protecting biodiversity for medicinal value, soil biodiversity and health, and applications of remotely sensed information to monitor and predict disease outbreaks (Colwell, cholera).

7 Biodiversity-Health Research Initiative U.S. EPA
Exploratory research funding – competitive extramural grants and interagency agreements Qualitative and quantitative relationships - how do anthropogenic drivers of changes in biodiversity affect the transmission of human infectious disease? Interdisciplinary research approach, including decision-makers Encourage coordination of earth observations with field data International and domestic projects Recognizing that parasites can be important drivers of biodiversity, host diversity can facilitate pathogen diversity, we are defining biodiversity as… focusing on how anthropogenic changes affect the composition, abundance and distribution of animal hosts and vectors, and how these changes affect disease transmission to humans. This workshop launched our research initiative: Competitive process, independent peer review 3 extramural projects (long-term) and 2 interagency, EPA initiated projects in collaboration with federal agencies with academia (pilots) US is member of GEOSS, so encouraging the coordination of earth observations with field data to study these relationships

8 Why is this Research Important?
Root causes of disease emergence and spread should be explored to assist in prevention and mitigation Lack of integrated tools and approaches that link biodiversity to human health Environmental and social factors contribute to these diseases – and environmentally-based and behavioral approaches can help reduce the disease burden Longstanding diseases need new strategies, for reduction and prevention. These approaches can supplement existing public health strategies or may provide new cost-effective approaches.

9 Summary Table of EPA’s Exploratory Research Projects
Characterizing Dilution Effect Mechanisms (Inst of Ecosystem Studies) Plant – Animal – Mosquito Diversity and Human Perception (Rutgers) Avian Diversity, Bioclimatic Factors, and Anthropogenic Change (UCLA) Lyme disease Risk Map (Yale, CDC, NASA Ames, EPA) Monitoring Mosquito Species Diversity Across a Landscape Gradient (EPA, Smithsonian) Geographic Focus/Scale of Research Forest plots across Duchess County, NY Townships across New Jersey National (USA) Barro Colorado Island/Panama Canal Watershed (Panama); Khao Chong, Thailand?? Disease System of Study Lyme disease West Nile encephalitis West Nile virus Mosquito-borne diseases Multi-Disciplinary Team Makeup ecology, population biology, epidemiology ecology, parasitology, ornithology, social science, environmental education, environmental managers ecology, virology, population genetics, remote sensing epidemiology, ecology, remote sensing, environmental managers ecology, epidemiology, entomology, biosystematics Strengths of the Research Study “Dilution effect” hypothesis will be tested on a well-studied ecological-epidemiological system Much preliminary data are available and extensive study infrastructure already in place Planned interdisciplinary workshop to identify risk reduction strategies is directed to homeowners – connecting science to local residents Attempting to quantify structural diversity, not just animal species richness Human behavioral component is innovative, attempting to link human attitudes of wetlands to disease risk Use of Bayesian methods is novel State Department of Environmental Protection (end-user) is involved in study design, execution, and implementation Focus is on the role of bird reservoir hosts in disease prevalence Cutting edge technology to be used to evaluate virus from bird feathers and migration patterns Migratory connectivity is an important feature of study Use of earth observations on climate, land cover, and moisture for integration into the proposed distribution model Building on an existing CDC-Yale spatial modeling project to test new hypotheses linking tick density and infection rates with new data on meteorology, mammalian and bird diversity Use of NASA Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System (TOPS) to deliver datasets from a variety of remotely sensed and in situ sources CDC and EPA are collaborators, helping to ensure that research results are communicated to the public and made relevant to decisionmakers Addresses new questions about the relationship between landscape change, mosquito species diversity and pathogen diversity Provides new material for SI’s mosquito barcoding initiative, and enhanced identification tools, in turn, could aid the monitoring work Partners include Gorgas Memorial Lab (entomological field work), Smithsonian (providing field sites in and outside of forest plot), EPA (decisionmaking relevance) Expected Research Outputs Quantitative model of disease risk Risk reduction guidelines produced by an interdisciplinary workshop Understanding of how wetland plant structure can be used to estimate animal host and vector diversity relevant to health Understanding of human factors affecting behavior in and around urban wetlands which affect land management and exposure to disease risk Distribution models which estimate infection patterns in migratory and resident birds and in humans, as well as the effects of anthropogenic changes on distribution and prevalence Surface map of human risk for infection from Lyme disease throughout the range of the primary vector. The map could be routinely updated using meteorological and remotely sensed data on landscape conditions. New knowledge on the effects of landscape change on the distribution of mosquitoes and the ecological mechanisms that drive change New information can be added to SI’s planned “Web Mapping Development Services” initiative to visualize global mosquito species richness and distribution Relevance to Decisionmaking Inform development of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies for Lyme disease Inform land use and development for human health protection, particularly environmentally-based strategies to reduce risk Inform valuation of disease regulation as one ecosystem service that benefits people Inform IPM strategies and biological control measures Inform wetland management and restoration to benefit health Results from public surveys can inform state and federal agency efforts at outreach Inform disease emergence monitoring and bird conservation efforts Inform land management and use to benefit health and the environment Inform IPM strategies Risk map can inform intervention measures for state and local health departments and preventive recommendations to the public Inform land use management and development as part of IPM strategies Inform forest management, particularly how changes to plant community structure can affect vectors of public health importance and communities living nearby

10 EPA Regional Science Workshop Landscape/Biodiversity Change and LD: Science and Application September , 2009 - The first EPA-sponsored forum to address decision-making and management applications related to the emerging science of Lyme disease risk monitoring and prevention in the context of biodiversity and landscape change - Raise awareness for stakeholders on the current and emerging state of the science related to the integrated, ecological nature of LD; Explore and share stakeholder roles and understanding of the LD; Identify decision-maker needs for research community Develop a Community of Practice allowing researchers, managers and practitioners to collaborate and plan for integrating new science into real world applications and decision-making By bringing researchers and decision-makers in health, ecology, land use planning together around this issue, first step towards integrated decision-making, through a variety of tools, existing and in development, that can help prevent disease. EXEC SUMMARY as outreach to attract, COP JOINING, ESC, listserve

11 Value of New Science & Science-Policy Tools:
Improved Decision-Making and Societal Outcomes New Science & Policy Tools ↓ Uncertainty ↑ Integration Joint Benefits * Disease Prevention * Ecosystem Protection best management practices integrated pest management guidance on individual risk Interdisciplinary Research Integrated Decision-Making Societal Outcomes

12 Protecting Biodiversity, Protecting Human Health
Environmental factors contribute to emerging diseases and environmental strategies can reduce their burden Development of new tools to monitor and forecast risks Information that can be used to value biodiversity conservation Improved communication and outreach Improved analysis of land use planning Better communication and coordination among environmental and health managers The links between changes in ecosystems, biodiversity and infectious diseases are complex. These links may involve other social and global environmental changes, such as climate change, migration, and population growth, which occur over different scales of space and time, so there may be many ways in which these factors interact to affect human disease. A better understanding of the role that changes in biodiversity may play in human health can reveal social and environmental factors that are important contributors to disease. These factors can be new opportunities to reduce disease through improved policy and management. So better understanding the causal mechanisms between biodiversity change and human infectious disease can lead to the development of new tools… use of tools to reduce disease; information that can be used to value… the involvement of social scientists can help identify human behaviors and provide insights into causal relationships, and they can help devise strategies and communication to the public to encourage behaviors that are protective to both health and the environment. New tools include indicators of biodiversity condition or change that could be relevant to disease emergence; quantitative disease risk models based on environmental factors What to do now? Based on what we know now (correlational), what can we do that is precautionary to protect our national and global security related to public health? Threshold – non-linear effects… More research focused on prevention, long-term strategic intelligence gathering that is done in an integrated way with the aim of application Working groups from this meeting…

13 Partners US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies Rutgers University UCLA Washington University Center for Health Applications of Aerospace Related Technologies (CHAART) at NASA Ames Research Center Gorgas Institute (Panama) Yale Center for EcoEpidemiology Smithsonian Institution US Group on Earth Observations (GEO)

~35min presentation. (25 slides total)


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