Science & Tech

Report documents health effect of biodiversity

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First systematic, comprehensive analysis of full human health consequences of species loss and ecosystem disruption

A new report catalogues the connections between biodiversity and human health. The interim executive summary was presented at the United Nations in late October 2002, following the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. The report is the first product from a project called “Biodiversity: Its Importance to Human Health,” headed by Eric Chivian at the Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment. The project involves 60 scientists from around the world and is believed to be the first systematic, comprehensive analysis of the full human health consequences of species loss and ecosystem disruption. The full technical report will be ready by the end of 2004. The project is conducted under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP). The report is divided into seven chapters, researched and written by seven different groups of international experts. The chapters review the current state of biodiversity, the ways that ecosystems support human health, medicines derived from natural sources, the role of species in medical research, the dynamics of ecosystem disruption and human infectious diseases, the role of biodiversity in world food production, and policy options for protecting biodiversity.