Upcoming post: Climate change, microclimates, and the importance of biodiversity to human health

I’m currently in Costa Rica, marveling at the depth and diversity of both the culture and natural environment. Costa Rica has designated a significant proportion of its territory as national parks, preserving its beauty for years to come. Tourism is thus a major source of national revenue, as people like me journey to the rain forests, cloud forests, beaches and other natural wonders simply to admire them.

The biodiversity found in Costa Rica also offers a potential bounty for human health – as noted by my colleague, Aaron Bernstein, during our course at the Harvard School of Public Health last semester, the majority of our medicines are derived from natural sources — most especially from those plants and animals found in rain forests and coral reefs, as they offer the greatest biodiversity densities.

What is also amazing about Costa Rica is the myriad microclimates, and the unique plants and animals found in each ecosystem, offering countless possibilities for improving human health. Of concern, however, is the fact that these microclimates are so very susceptible to small environmental changes.  The creatures within these microclimates have become specialized over time to develop a microclimate-specific ecology. In the face of global environmental change, generally, and climate change, specifically, three questions immediately spring to mind:

  1. How resilient will these microclimate ecosystems be to climate and other environmental change?
  2. What potential benefits to human health will be lost when these stresses overcome such ecosystem’s ability to withstand them?
  3. What interventions can be made in the short- to medium-term to protect and preserve these environments in the face of such challenges?

Obviously, this is a short prelude to a larger post and discussion, but any thoughts you might have before I write said post would be warmly welcomed.

Mey Akashah

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About Mey Akashah
Mey Akashah is a Harvard-trained public health professional whose work centers on the nexus of human rights, humanitarian crises, and environmental health. Dr. Akashah has published on a range of topics including compensation for human rights abuses, the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on conflict and sustainable livelihoods, and the health impacts of mercury contamination in the Arabian Gulf. Mey has served in several academic and humanitarian positions, including Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Public Health Officer in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake and as a consultant for the Harvard-Kuwait Risk Group. Dr. Mey Akashah holds a Doctorate of Science in environmental sciences and risk management, as well as a Masters of Science in global health and population from the Harvard School of Public Health.

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