James G. Else
Mark A. Pokras
A primary goal of conservation medicine is the pursuit of ecological health or, by extension, the health of ecosystems and their inhabitants. Ecological health is, and will remain, in a continuous state of flux. As our environment continues to change, so will the disease patterns and their effects on the health of human and animal populations.
These types of interactions by their very nature will remain unpredictable and poorly understood. When evaluating the health of an ecosystem, there is a need to tease out normal background noise to look for long-term trends and changes, rather than short-term occurrences that may or may not be significant. One needs to draw a composite picture from an array of perceived trends that as a whole may indicate the health of the environment and its occupants.
This book is a compilation of chapters defining the potential boundaries of the field of conservation medicine. These chapters describe the wide array of issues presently involving health and the environment. On one end of the spectrum is a degraded biosphere being consumed by insatiable human needs, and on the other, the health effects on human and other species as a result of this consumptive behavior. The decline in ecological health is happening on all scales from the global to the local. The chapters in this book present effects in terrestrial, marine, and freshwater environments in the developed and developing worlds. Attention is also given to changes in the practice of human, veterinary, and ecosystem health care. To understand the scope of conservation medicine, a framework for the exploration and practice of the field is presented.
In part I, Tabor (chap. 2) offers an in-depth discussion of the concept of conservation medicine with an invitation to the reader to join in the development of this practice and both refine its parameters and extend its scope to additional