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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Connecting Global Priorities: Biodiversity and Human Health

Publication Year: 2015 Publisher: World Health Organization and Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity


Biodiversity, ecosystems and the essential services that they deliver are central pillars for all life on the planet, including human life. They are sources of food and essential nutrients, medicines and medicinal compounds, fuel, energy, livelihoods and cultural and spiritual enrichment. They also contribute to the provision of clean water and air, and perform critical functions that range from the regulation of pests and disease to that of climate change and natural disasters. Each of these functions has direct and indirect consequences for our health and well-being, and each an important component of the epidemiological puzzle that confront our efforts to stem the tide of infectious and noncommunicable diseases.

The inexorable links between biodiversity, ecosystems, the provision of these benefits and human health are deeply entrenched in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, and reflected in its 2050 Vision: “Biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people”. They are central to our common agenda for sustainable development.

As science continues to unravel our understanding of the vital links between biodiversity, its persistent loss, global health and development, we become better equipped to develop robust, coherent and coordinated solutions that jointly reduce threats to human life and to the surrounding environment that sustains it. Increasing our knowledge of these complex relationships at all scales, and the influences by which they are mediated, enables us to develop effective solutions capable of strengthening ecosystem resilience and mitigating the forces that impede their ability to deliver lifesupporting services. This state of knowledge review is a constructive step in this direction.