The second primary area is connecting the scientific evidence to effective policy. To achieve this, it is crucial for researchers to understand the political landscape, from small community groups and local governments, through to international organisations and national governments – we have to exert influence on those people who make the decisions if we want to create change.
“At the moment, agriculture and ecosystem budgets are a fraction of defence and public health budgets, and yet we know ecosystems are tightly linked to our health and our food systems. If this is going to change, we have to present compelling scientific and economic arguments about why ecosystem restoration is an urgent need for society.”
Associate Professor Breed says a third serious area of concern is global population distribution. In 2006, for the first time ever, more than 50% of the world’s human population was living in cities, and the rate has rapidly escalated; 65% of people probably now live in cities, and the number is expected to be 70% by 2050, with significant rises forecast particularly in equatorial African regions.
“Growing cities are influencing the collapse of ecosystems, de-stabilising food webs and causing rapid changes to soil biodiversity, which in turn risks creating unhealthy populations of people,” says Associated Professor Breed.
“Such massive redistribution of such a huge population is a new problem. The loss of urban biodiversity, declining green ecosystems and increasing pollution in urban areas around the world are not only increasing citizens’ exposure to unhealthy pathogens and allergens, but is reducing their exposure to key beneficial elements like soil biodiversity that promote good immunity. This positive exposure is linked to reduced allergies and other illnesses including asthma in humans. Soil biodiversity promotes better human health and wellbeing.”
He emphasises that very clear correlations exist between the health of people and the health of ecosystems, yet in both scientific research and funding, these two areas remain largely separate from each other. Associate Professor Breed wants this to change.
“There has to be room for more than one expert opinion to achieve greater holistic outcomes. Animal-focused experts can forget that the wellbeing of animals relies on the health of plants, and plant experts can forget that the habitat plants create relies on soils. All these areas of science – and many more – must interconnect to achieve a united, well-articulated vision statement that brings people, animals and ecosystems together in a way that benefits us all.”