Natural and biodiverse environments offer health benefits

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RESEARCH AREA
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This week’s featured research article has just been published in the Journal of Environmental Management by University of Adelaide researchers. Using continent-wide datasets, the researchers explored previously unaccounted potential environmental influences on respiratory health. The results are generally suggestive of a potential beneficial or protective health influence associated with natural and biodiverse environments. Across different socio-geographic settings, the researchers highlight environmental features and attributes worthy of more targeted investigation—in particular, high biodiversity areas, natural forests through to open woodlands, wetlands, high diversity in land use, and proximity to coastal areas. The validity of these findings is supported by the parallel associations they found with well-recognized social predictors of health included in the modelling. These findings provide additional motivation to investigate the various potential connections between biodiverse environments and human health. Among these, the researchers suggest possible beneficial immunomodulatory influences from environmental microbiota and bioactive agents (perhaps associated with various environmental components such as types of vegetation, soils, land use, and their diversity) represent a worthy research focus (e.g. via study of environmental and human microbiomes and human health biomarkers). The results provide additional support and context to emerging research into the potential role of natural green space exposures in reducing the risk of immune-related disease at a population level. The researchers conclude that the approach can be readily adapted to explore potential health and environmental associations elsewhere. The article can be downloaded here (or email jennie.fluin@sa.gov.au for a copy).