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ALTER-Net: A Long-Term Biodiversity, Ecosystem and Awareness Research Network

Europe’s ecosystem research network


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Global Sustainable Development Report 2019: NINA Background Report on Biodiversity and Health

Biodiversity and Human Health

During recent years, novel research has shown the wide spectrum of connections between biodiversity and human health: from mental to physical health, from microbial to the landscape level, from rural to urban contexts, from children and young adults throughout the lifespan into old age, and from individuals to groups of people – indeed, to humanity as a whole.

Recognized as a broad and well established research network with high-quality, societally relevant biodiversity research, ALTER-Net was invited by the UN Independent Group of Scientists to produce a Global Sustainable Development (SDG) background report on the state of the art on biodiversity-human health relationships. This report was spearhead by NINA, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.

This background report discusses the direct and indirect linkages and focuses the scattered knowledge through concrete cases where the biodiversity-health link has shown its power.

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The key findings and key messages from the regional assessment for Europe and Central Asia of the inter-linkages between health and biodiversity are given in this background paper, as an overview of the main conclusions in this field. In addition, this paper highlights the links between biodiversity and health at various spatial and temporal scales, further elaborated upon in a diversity of cases. These cases, ranging from issues around microbiota, Asian bush mosquitos, forest and marine ecosystems, and biodiversity and health issues at a national scale, emphasise not only the diverse range of ways by which biodiversity can have an impact on health and social well-being, but also the importance of integrating the issue of biodiversity and health into our efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The first case on microbial biodiversity is directly linked to human health issues, and is also expected to have implications for the next generation.The current invasion of the Asian bush mosquito in Europe impairs physical health as the mosquito is a vector of various pathogens. Both forest and marine biodiversity are shown to affect a combination of physical and mental health, as well as social wellbeing and the‘OneHealth/EcoHealth’ approach is described in the national case from as a transdisciplinary effort to implement actions that promote adaptive health management across human, animal and ecosystem interfaces.


Van Dijk, J., Carss, D., Keune, H., Vikström, S., Flandroy, L., Rook, G., Haahtela, T.,Mehring, M., Birzle-Harder, B., Reuss, F., Müller, R., Luque, S. & Rodrigues, J.G. 2019.Invited background document on biodiversity and health for the Global SustainableDevelopment Report 2019 drafted by the Independent Group of Scientists. NINA Report1555. Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. ISBN: 978-82-426-3293-7