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Science Wednesday: EPA Helps Celebrate the International Year of Biodiversity

2010 June 16

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

As part of a series of United Nations (UN) events celebrating the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB), and to review progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, the UN Environment Programme organized an event on April 30 at New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

The event brought together scientists—including me—for a panel discussion on the important roles biodiversity and ecosystems play for children’s health and well-being.

We discussed the implications of continued biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation for children, highlighting key concepts with case studies in Africa and Latin America. We also talked about actions we think would provide mutual benefit to both conserving biodiversity and protecting children’s health and well-being.

So what can be done to achieve mutual benefits for biodiversity and child health?

Erika Vohman, of the Equilibrium Fund, presented one great example from the Fund’s award-winning Maya Nut Program in Latin America. The program concentrates on helping rural women, acquire skills to produce and sell products made from Maya nuts they harvest from the rain forest.

The nuts are extremely nutritious, providing high levels of protein, fiber, calcium, potassium, folate, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, E, C, and B. Vohman’s team has documented a wide array of benefits from the program, including rising income levels, increased self-esteem and status for the women, food security for families, and better health and nutrition for mothers and their children. They even found an increase in infant birth weights.

The event gave me the opportunity to talk about EPA’s efforts to develop transdisciplinary studies linking ecosystems, biodiversity, and human health. One example, as I’ve blogged about previously, is our effort to explore the links between biodiversity and Lyme disease transmission (for which incidence rates are highest among children.) These studies are fostering partnerships among ecologists, epidemiologists, urban/suburban planners, and local and state governments to discuss scientific advances and new risk prevention/reduction strategies at the landscape and household scales.
It takes a community to engage in biodiversity and children’s health and to put results into action!

About the author: Montira Pongsiri, PhD, MPH, is an Environmental Health Scientist in EPA’s Office of the Science Advisor. She has blogged about her work exploring the links between biodiversity and human health for Science Wednesday.

Editor’s Note: A podcast of the event is available at: A brochure of key messages from the event will be publicized by partners and used during IYB, including for the General Assembly’s High Level Meetings on the IYB and progress towards the MDGs, and the 10th Conference of the Parties to CBD in Nagoya, Japan.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    June 16, 2010

    Excuse me….,
    For the future of our planet not only to develop ecosystems, biodiversity and human health ; but also simultaneity of ecouniversesystem by two substantives : natural, and global.

  2. W. S. Chang permalink
    June 16, 2010

    As Environmental Executive of Magic Tech Worldwide, EPA has been assessed to b e much much lagging behind all the environmental issues. For example,
    day and night environmental conflicts occurring in all U.S. global merchants in Taiwan have got the full attention of Dutch VROM,, EUROVENTURE, and EPA Taiwan. Where has been EPA?

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    June 20, 2010

    It is very critical that the issues of biodiversity and human health are shown to be interrelated as what damages eco-systems can also be what damages human health leading to respiratory problems, cancers, birth defects/complications, many disabilities and other problems. One example is the water pollution in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Many rivers in this area are polluted by storm and irrigation water runoff while the underground acquifer water where many people in the Valley get their drinking water is being polluted by nitrates and arsonic that are increasingly found in the water wells that tap into the acquifer. Another is the amount of plastic water bottles and other plastics carelessly tossed out that could go to recycling. We are seeing how severe the oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico is. Plastic containers use petrolium in their manufacturing process and many of these containers are left where they are emptied or are dumped out without thought to wind up going into storm drains and into streams, creeks, rivers, and eventually the ocean to cause a silent crisis for aquatic eco-systems and the people who depend on them. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. jake permalink
    July 22, 2010

    The future of our planet needs to be defined, through all the technology we have gained we will inevitably find a solution to our growing problems.

  5. Jerome permalink
    October 20, 2010

    efforts on saving what’s left of our planet should be doubled. we cannot just wait for things to happen,because you might realize that its too late. loss of biodiversity is just one of the numerous problems but sadly enough, most just consider it too trivial just like buying a toothbrush in the department store. hopefully they become more aware as early as possible.

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