Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice

Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice

Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice

Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice

Synopsis

Conservation medicine focuses on the cross-over between ecosystem, animal and human health. Conservation biology emerged as a "crisis" discipline in the 1980s at the interface between ecology, environmental policy and management; and work in the biomedical and veterinary sciences is now being folded into conservation biology, to explore the connections between animal and human health. It traces the environmental sources of pathogens and pollutants in order to develop a rounded, interdisciplinary understanding of the ecological causes of changes in human and animal health, and the consequences of diseases to populations and ecological communities.

Excerpt

In the future, the Legend of the Great Dying will be recited to the children of the Third Planet:

It happened thusly. First, there was the Great Explosion in human numbers and in technological prowess. In 200 Earth years, all the wild places were degraded or destroyed. Next, the chemicals and gases released by agriculture and industry impaired the health of the surviving species and changed the climate. The Great Heat then occurred, as did the Second Great Flood. Simultaneously, thousands of species of plants and animals were transported across natural barriers and became invasive species in their new surroundings; this was known as the Great Mixing. Near the end of that era there were many new plagues—the Great Sickness—that ravaged the weakened, unprepared human beings and other species. After that, the survivors left.

The birth of conservation medicine is timely. It is an essential response to the emergence of new diseases and the physiological threats to human beings and millions of other species caused by industry, agriculture, and commerce. Even while the life expectancy of people from the richest northern countries is increasing, the defenses against the relentless old diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, are weakening. Moreover, there are indications that disease is becoming a major cause of ecological simplification, including extinction. The most shocking harbinger is the global decline in amphibians caused by habitat loss, pollution, and a virulent fungus. Conservation medicine addresses the two-way exchange of pathogens between human society and self-regulated nature, and it calls for interdisciplinary research that might lead to new solutions. For this we can only applaud the emergence of conservation medicine.

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