Biodiversity and health: Lessons and recommendations from an interdisciplinary conference to advise Southeast Asian research, society and policy.
Walther BA., Boëte C., Binot A., By Y., Cappelle J., Carrique-Mas J., Chou M., Furey N., Kim S., Lajaunie C., Lek S., Méral P., Neang M., Tan B-H., Walton C., Morand S.
Southeast Asia is an economic, biodiverse, cultural and disease hotspot. Due to rapid socio-economic and environmental changes, the role of biodiversity and ecosystems for human health ought to be examined and communicated to decision-makers and the public. We therefore summarized the lessons and recommendations from an interdisciplinary conference convened in Cambodia in 2014 to advise Southeast Asian societies on current research efforts, future research needs, and to provide suggestions for improved education, training and science-policy interactions. First, we reviewed several examples of the important role of ecosystems as 'sentinels' in the sense that potentially harmful developments for human health become first apparent in ecosystem components. Other ecosystem services which also benefit human well-being are briefly summarized. Second, we summarized the recommendations of the conference's roundtable discussions and added recent developments in the science-policy interface. The recommendations were organized along five themes: Ethical and legal considerations; implementation of the One Health approach; education, training, and capacity building; future research priorities; and potential science-policy interactions. While the role of biodiversity for human health needs further research, especially for zoonoses and emerging diseases, many direct and indirect benefits to human health are already apparent, but have yet to filter down to the science-policy interface in order to influence legislation and enforcement. Therefore, efforts to strengthen the interface in Southeast Asia should become a high priority in order to strengthen the health and resilience of Southeast Asian societies.