Further Reading...

An introduction to foundation research & emerging science

2020

May 2020

Characterising the soil fungal microbiome in metropolitan green spaces across a vegetation biodiversity gradient

Zdravko Baruch, Craig Liddicoat, Mark Laws, L.Kiri Marker, Hamish Morelli, DongFeng Yan, Jennifer M.Young, Martin F.Breed

May 2020

Microbiome-inspired green infrastructure: a toolkit for multidisciplinary landscape design

Harry Watkins, Jake M.Robinson, Martin F.Breed, Brenda Parker, Philip Weinstein

May 2020

Exposure to greenspaces could reduce the high global burden of pain

Jessica Stanhope, Martin F.Breed, Philip Weinstein

April 2020

Revegetation of urban green space rewilds soil microbiotas with implications for human health & urban design

Jacob G.Mills, Andrew Bissett, Nicholas J.C.Gellie, Andrew J.Lowe, Caitlin A.Selway, Torsten Thomas, Philip Weinstein, Laura S.Weyrich, Martin F.Breed

February 2020

The Lovebug Effect: is the human biophilic drive influenced by interactions between the host, the environment, & the microbiome?

Jake M.Robinson, Martin F.Breed

 

2019

28 October 2019

Naturally-diverse airborne environmental microbial exposures modulate the gut microbiome & may provide anxiolytic benefits in mice

Craig Liddicoat, Harrison Sydnor, Christian Cando-Dumancela, Romy Dresken, Jiajun Liu, Nicholas J.C.Gellie, Jacob G.Mills, Jennifer M.Young, Laura S.Weyrich, Mark R.Hutchinson, Philip Weinstein, Martin F.Breed

July 2019

The potential of genomics for restoring ecosystems & biodiversity

Martin F.Breed, Peter A.Harrison, Colette Blyth, Margaret Byrne, Virginie Gaget, Nicholas J.C.Gellie, Scott V.C.Groom, Riley Hodgson, Jacob G.Mills, Thomas A.A.Prowse, Dorothy A.Steane, Jakki J.Mohr

July 2019

The impact of green space & biodiversity on health

Hakkan Lai, Emily J.Flies, Philip Weinstein, Alistair Woodward

May 2019

Can bacterial indicators of a grassy woodland restoration inform ecosystem assessment & microbiota-mediated human health?

Craig Liddicoat, Philip Weinstein, Andrew Bissett, Nicholas J.C. Gellie, Jacob G.Mills, Michelle Waycott, Martin F.Breed

March 2019

Spatiotemporal controls on the urban aerobiome

Gwynne Á.Mhuireach, Clarisse M.Betancourt-Román, Jessica L.Green, Bart R.Johnson

January 2019

Green prescriptions & their co-benefits: integrative strategies for public & environmental health

Jake M.Robinson, Martin F.Breed

 

2018

November 2018

Walking ecosystems in microbiome-inspired green infrastructure: an ecological perspective on enhancing personal & planetary health

Jake M.Robinson, Jacob G.Mills, Martin F.Breed

January 2018

Ambient soil cation exchange capacity inversely associates with infectious & parasitic disease risk in regional Australia

Craig Liddicoat, Peng Bi, Michelle Waycott, John Glover, Martin F.Breed, Philip Weinstein

 

2017

November 2017

High-throughput eDNA monitoring of fungi to track functional recovery in ecological restoration

DongFeng Yan, Jacob G.Mills, Nicholas J.C.Gellie, Andrew Bissett, Andrew J.Lowe, Martin F.Breed

October 2017

Landscape biodiversity correlates with respiratory health in Australia

Craig Liddicoat, Peng Bi, Michelle Waycott, John Glover, Andrew J. Lowe, Philip Weinstein

October 2017

Biodiverse green spaces: a prescription for global urban health

Emily J.Flies, Chris Skelly, Sagri Singh Negi, Poornima Prabhakaran, Qiyong Liu, Keke Liu, Fiona C.Goldizen, Chris Lease, Philip Weinstein

October 2017

Urban habitat restoration provides a human health benefit through microbiome rewilding: the microbiome rewilding hypothesis

Jacob G.Mills, Philip Weinstein, Nicholas J.C.Gellie, Laura S.Weyrich, Andrew J.Lowe, Martin F.Breed

 

2016

October 2016

Environmental change & human health: can environmental proxies inform the biodiversity hypothesis for protective microbial - human contact?

Craig Liddicoat, Michelle Waycott, Philip Weinstein

July 2016

Urban greenness influences airborne bacterial community composition

Gwynne Mhuireach, Bart R.Johnson, Adam E.Altrichter, Joshua Ladau, James F.Meadow, Katherine S.Pollard, Jessica L.Green

 

2013

October 2013

Regulation of the immune system by biodiversity from the natural environment: an ecosystem service essential to health

Graham A.Rook

 

2011

November 2011

Natural immunity: biodiversity loss & inflammatory diseases are two global megatrends that might be related

Leena von Hertzen, Ilkka Hanski, Tari Haahtela

2020

28 May 2020

Characterising the soil fungal microbiome in metropolitan green spaces across a vegetation biodiversity gradient

Zdravko Baruch, Craig Liddicoat, Mark Laws, L.Kiri Marker, Hamish Morelli, DongFeng Yan, Jennifer M.Young, Martin F.Breed

ABSTRACT

Plant-soil feedbacks not only shape plant communities but also the abiotic & biotic nature of soils.

These feedbacks are well-studied in natural & agricultural landscapes, but poorly studied in cities.

Here, we investigated soil fungal communities, vegetation & soil abiotic properties in five urban green space types within urban Adelaide, South Australia.

We surveyed eight, spatially-independent replicates of Sport Fields, Community Gardens, Parklands, Young Revegetation & Old Revegetation sites. Vegetation strongly associated with soil fungal abundance & diversity.

Revegetated urban green spaces had appreciably higher fungal diversity than other spaces, as well as greater richness in saprotrophic & pathotrophic fungi.

We suggest that restoration of urban green space fungal microbiomes appears possible via replanting the native vegetation community.

Such revegetation interventions will likely have positive outcomes for not only biodiversity conservation but also human health, via re-creating a biodiverse environmental microbiome.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr001

10 May 2020

Microbiome-inspired green infrastructure: a toolkit for multidisciplinary landscape design

Harry Watkins, Jake M.Robinson, Martin F.Breed, Brenda Parker, Philip Weinstein

ABSTRACT

Incorporating recent advances in environmental microbiome research & policy is a major challenge for urban design.

We set out a framework for managing construction projects so that multidisciplinary teams of researchers & practitioners can explicitly consider environmental microbiota in design and construction contexts, thereby increasing ecosystem functionality & public health.

Such revegetation interventions will likely have positive outcomes for not only biodiversity conservation but also human health, via re-creating a biodiverse environmental microbiome.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr020

8 May 2020

Exposure to greenspaces could reduce the high global burden of pain

Jessica Stanhope, Martin F.Breed, PhilipWeinstein

ABSTRACT

Painful conditions are among the leading causes of years lived with disability, & may increase following the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to temporary closure of some healthcare services for people with chronic pain.

To reduce this burden, novel, cost-effective & accessible interventions are required.

We propose that greenspace exposure may be one such intervention.

Drawing on evidence from neuroscience, physiology, microbiology, & psychology, we articulate how & why exposure to greenspaces could improve pain outcomes & reduce the high global burden of pain.

Greenspace exposure potentially provides opportunities to benefit from known or proposed health-enhancing components of nature, such as environmental microbiomes, phytoncides, negative air ions, sunlight, & the sights & sounds of nature itself.

We review the established & potential links between these specific exposures & pain outcomes.

While further research is required to determine possible causal links between greenspace exposure & pain outcomes, we suggest that there is already sufficient evidence to help reduce the global burden of pain by improving access & exposure to quality greenspaces.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr018

20 April 2020

Revegetation of urban green space rewilds soil microbiotas with implications for human health & urban design

Jacob G.Mills, Andrew Bissett, Nicholas J.C.Gellie, Andrew J.Lowe, Caitlin A.Selway, Torsten Thomas, Philip Weinstein, Laura S.Weyrich, Martin F.Breed

ABSTRACT

Many noncommunicable diseases are linked to degraded diversity in the human & environmental microbiota & are rising globally in epidemic proportions in industrialized urban populations.

Reducing this disease burden may be aided by the ecological restoration of microbiota & their habitat in urban green spaces - a process termed microbiome rewilding.

Microbiome rewilding could serve as a mechanism to increase urban exposure to biodiversity; biodiversity could introduce microbiota species or functional diversity to improve immune training & regulation in urban populations.

As a first step in examining this hypothesis, we explored the microbial diversity & composition of a variety of urban green space vegetation types relative to urban revegetated woodlands of varying levels of vegetation diversity, including lawns, vacant lots, parklands, & remnant woodlands.

We generated amplicon sequence variant community profiles from bacterial & archaeal 16S rRNA, fungal ITS1 region, & eukaryotic 18S rRNA marker genes.

We also made trophic-mode predictions of the fungal amplicon sequence variants.

Across sites, soil microbiotas in revegetated urban green spaces were similar to remnant woodland microbiotas & differed greatly from lawns & vacant lots.

There were several differentially abundant genera likely driving these differences that had strong correlations to plant species richness, soil pH, & conductivity.

We provide the first evidence, as far as we know, that revegetation can improve urban soil microbiota diversity toward a more natural, biodiverse state by creating more wild habitat conditions.

 This evidence supports initiating further studies within the growing field of microbiome rewilding.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr015

28 February 2020

The Lovebug Effect:
is the human biophilic drive influenced by interactions between the host, the environment, & the microbiome?

Jake M.Robinson, Martin F.Breed

ABSTRACT

Psychological frameworks are often used to investigate the mechanisms involved with our affinity towards, & connection with nature - such as the Biophilia Hypothesis & Nature Connectedness.

Recent revelations from microbiome science suggest that animal behaviour can be strongly influenced by the host's microbiome - for example, via the bidirectional communication properties of the gut-brain axis.

Here, we build on this theory to hypothesise that a microbially-influenced mechanism could also contribute to the human biophilic drive – the tendency for humans to affiliate & connect with nature.

Humans may be at an evolutionary advantage through health-regulating exchange of environmental microbiota, which in turn could influence our nature affinity.

We present a conceptual model for microbially-influenced nature affinity, calling it the Lovebug Effect.

We present an overview of the potential mechanistic pathways involved in the Lovebug Effect, & consider its dependence on the hologenome concept of evolution, direct behavioural manipulation, & host-microbiota associated phenotypes independent of these concepts.

We also discuss its implications for human health & ecological resilience.

Finally, we highlight several possible approaches to scrutinise the hypothesis.

The Lovebug Effect could have important implications for our understanding of exposure to natural environments for health and wellbeing, & could contribute to an ecologically resilient future.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr006

2019

28 October 2019

Naturally-diverse airborne environmental microbial exposures modulate the gut microbiome & may provide anxiolytic benefits in mice

Craig Liddicoat, Harrison Sydnor, Christian Cando-Dumancela, Romy Dresken, Jiajun Liu, Nicholas J.C.Gellie, Jacob G.Mills, Jennifer M.Young, Laura S.Weyrich, Mark R.Hutchinson, Philip Weinstein, Martin F.Breed

ABSTRACT

Growing epidemiological evidence links natural green space exposure with a range of health benefits, including for mental health.

Conversely, greater urbanisation associates with increased risk of mental health disorders.

Microbiomes are proposed as an important but understudied link that may help explain many green space-human health associations.

However, there remains a lack of controlled experimental evidence testing possible beneficial effects from passive exposure to natural biodiversity via airborne microbiota.

Previous mouse model studies have used unrealistic environmental microbial exposures - including excessive soil & organic matter contact, feed supplements & injections - to demonstrate host microbiota, immune biomarker, & behavioural changes.

Here, in a randomised controlled experiment, we demonstrate that realistic exposures to trace-level dust from a high biodiversity soil can change mouse gut microbiota, in comparison to dust from low biodiversity soil or no soil (control) (n = 54 total mice, comprising 3 treatments × 18 mice, with 9 females + 9 males per group).

Furthermore, we found a nominal soil-derived anaerobic spore-forming butyrate-producer, Kineothrix alysoides, was supplemented to a greater extent in the gut microbiomes of high biodiversity treatment mice.

Also, increasing relative abundance of this rare organism correlated with reduced anxiety-like behaviour in the most anxious mice.

Our results point to an intriguing new hypothesis: that biodiverse soils may represent an important supplementary source of butyrate-producing bacteria capable of resupplying the mammalian gut microbiome, with potential for gut health & mental health benefits.

Our findings have potential to inform cost-effective population health interventions through microbiome-conscious green space design &, ultimately, the mainstreaming of biodiversity into health care.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr011

12 July 2019

The potential of genomics for restoring ecosystems & biodiversity

Martin F.Breed, Peter A.Harrison, Colette Blyth, Margaret Byrne, Virginie Gaget, Nicholas J.C.Gellie, Scott V.C.Groom, Riley Hodgson, Jacob G.Mills, Thomas A.A.Prowse, Dorothy A.Steane, Jakki J.Mohr

ABSTRACT

Billions of hectares of natural ecosystems have been degraded through human actions.

The global community has agreed on targets to halt & reverse these declines, & the restoration sector faces the important but arduous task of implementing programmes to meet these objectives.

Existing & emerging genomics tools offer the potential to improve the odds of achieving these targets.

These tools include population genomics that can improve seed sourcing, meta-omics that can improve assessment & monitoring of restoration outcomes, & genome editing that can generate novel genotypes for restoring challenging environments.

We identify barriers to adopting these tools in a restoration context & emphasize that regulatory & ethical frameworks are required to guide their use.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr002

02 July 2019

The impact of green space & biodiversity on health

Hakkan Lai, Emily J.Flies, Philip Weinstein, Alistair Woodward

ABSTRACT

Urban green spaces are associated with many health outcomes, but the mechanisms underlying these links remain unclear. One explanation is that biodiverse microbiomes in green spaces affect human health by modifying immune function.

Our systematic review included studies that investigated the relationship between green space & either health or biodiversity. Reported effects of green space on health were generally positive, but 22% of the papers identified either no effect or negative effects. We also found that although green space was commonly associated with biodiversity, few green‐space health studies simultaneously examined biodiversity.

Overreliance on cross‐sectional studies, various definitions of green space, & a lack of research in tropical & developing nations limit the conclusions that can be drawn.

A better understanding of the biological aspects of contact with nature is required before city planners can optimize green spaces for health gains.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr004

6 May 2019

Can bacterial indicators of a grassy woodland restoration inform ecosystem assessment & microbiota-mediated human health?

Craig Liddicoat, Philip Weinstein, Andrew Bissett, Nicholas J.C.Gellie, Jacob G.Mills, Michelle Waycott, Martin F.Breed

ABSTRACT

Understanding how microbial communities change with environmental degradation & restoration may offer new insights into the understudied ecology that connects humans, microbiota, & the natural world.

Immunomodulatory microbial diversity & ‘Old Friends’ are thought to be supplemented from biodiverse natural environments, yet deficient in anthropogenically disturbed or degraded environments.

However, few studies have compared the microbiomes of natural vs. human-altered environments & there is little knowledge of which microbial taxa are representative of ecological restoration—i.e. the assisted recovery of degraded ecosystems typically towards a more natural, biodiverse state.

Here we use novel bootstrap-style resampling of site-level soil bacterial 16S rRNA gene environmental DNA data to identify genus-level indicators of restoration from a 10-year grassy eucalypt woodland restoration chronosequence at Mt Bold, South Australia.

We found two key indicator groups emerged: ‘opportunistic taxa’ that decreased in relative abundance with restoration & more stable & specialist, ‘niche-adapted taxa’ that increased. We validated these results, finding seven of the top ten opportunists & eight of the top ten niche-adapted taxa displayed consistent differential abundance patterns between human-altered vs. natural samples elsewhere across Australia.

Extending this, we propose a two-dimensional mapping for ecosystem condition based on the proportions of these divergent indicator groups.

We also show that restoring a more biodiverse ecosystem at Mt Bold has increased the potentially immune- boosting environmental microbial diversity.

Furthermore, environmental opportunists including the pathogen containing genera Bacillus, Clostridium, Enterobacter, Legionella & Pseudomonas associated with disturbed ecosystems.

Our approach is generalizable with potential to inform DNA-based methods for ecosystem assess- ment & help target environmental interventions that may promote microbiota-mediated human health gains.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr007

11 March 2019

Spatiotemporal controls on the urban aerobiome

Gwynne Á.Mhuireach, Clarisse M. Betancourt-Román, Jessica L.Green, Bart R.Johnson

ABSTRACT

Greater exposure to environmental microorganisms has been hypothesized to reduce the likelihood of developing autoimmune disorders, & vegetation is known to be a source of diverse microbiota to the air.

However, the spatiotemporal dynamics of airborne microbial communities in urban environments with varying amounts & types of vegetation are poorly understood.

In this study we used high-throughput sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene to assess whether fine-scale variation in urban vegetation influences the diversity, composition, or structure of airborne bacterial communities over time.

We used passive settling dishes to collect airborne bacteria from 36 sites representing three urban land cover types (forest, grassland, paved) over a 3-month period in Eugene-Springfield, Oregon, USA.

We used remote sensing data (aerial 4-band orthoimagery & LiDAR) & geographic information systems (GIS) to assess detailed site characteristics (e.g., total vegetation cover and structural diversity) for each site.

Our initial analysis indicated that site was the most important factor explaining variation in bacterial community structure (R2 = 0.32, p < 0.001), followed by sampling date (R2 = 0.24, p < 0.001), while land cover type was a significant but weak predictor (R2 = 0.06, p < 0.001) & other vegetation metrics were even less predictive.

However, when samples were analyzed separately by date, the explanatory power of land cover type increased substantially; six of nine dates showed significant effects (p < 0.05) with R2 ranging from 0.16–0.31, indicating that land cover type had a marked influence on bacterial community structure that was obscured by the effects of site & sampling date.

Despite the importance of site as a predictor of bacterial community structure, Mantel tests for spatial correlation were insignificant for most sampling dates, suggesting that localized site characteristics were driving this relationship.

We use our results to propose a space-time conceptual model of the interactions between site-scale environmental features (e.g., vegetation characteristics) & regional-scale temporal processes & events (e.g., agricultural harvesting) to understand & perhaps manage intraurban airborne bacterial communities.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr013

17 January 2019

Green prescriptions & their co-benefits: integrative strategies for public & environmental health

Jake M.Robinson, Martin F.Breed

ABSTRACT

There is a growing recognition of the links between the increasing prevalence of noncommunicable diseases, environmental concerns including biodiversity loss & ecosystem degradation, & socioecological issues such as ecological (in)justice.

This has encouraged a number of recent calls for the development of integrative approaches aimed at addressing these issues—also known as nature-based solutions.

An example of an emerging nature-based solution is a ‘green prescription’, broadly defined as a nature-based health intervention.

Green prescriptions are typically designed for patients with a defined need & they have the potential to supplement orthodox medical treatments, particularly those aimed at addressing noncommunicable diseases.

It is also thought that green prescriptions could bring about significant environmental, economic, & social co-benefits.

However, researchers have recently expressed concerns over taking the ‘dose of nature’ approach, in that it may be too reductionistic for the complex social settings in which it is provided.

Here we frame a holistic philosophical perspective & discuss green prescribing logic, types, mechanisms & fundamental remaining questions & challenges.

We place a significant emphasis on the potential co-benefits of green prescriptions, & the importance of taking a planetary health approach.

More research is needed to determine how this potential can be realised, & to further understand the complexities of the nature–human health relationship.

However, with additional research & support, there is huge potential for green prescriptions to contribute to both reactive (health care) & proactive (health promoting) public health solutions whilst enhancing the natural environment.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr017

2018

16 November 2018

Walking ecosystems in microbiome-inspired green infrastructure: an ecological perspective on enhancing personal & planetary health

Jake M.Robinson, Martin F.Breed

ABSTRACT

There is a growing recognition of the links between the increasing prevalence of noncommunicable diseases, environmental concerns including biodiversity loss & ecosystem degradation, & socioecological issues such as ecological (in)justice.

This has encouraged a number of recent calls for the development of integrative approaches aimed at addressing these issues—also known as nature-based solutions.

An example of an emerging nature-based solution is a ‘green prescription’, broadly defined as a nature-based health intervention.

Green prescriptions are typically designed for patients with a defined need & they have the potential to supplement orthodox medical treatments, particularly those aimed at addressing noncommunicable diseases.

It is also thought that green prescriptions could bring about significant environmental, economic, & social co-benefits.

However, researchers have recently expressed concerns over taking the ‘dose of nature’ approach, in that it may be too reductionistic for the complex social settings in which it is provided.

Here we frame a holistic philosophical perspective & discuss green prescribing logic, types, mechanisms & fundamental remaining questions & challenges.

We place a significant emphasis on the potential co-benefits of green prescriptions, & the importance of taking a planetary health approach.

More research is needed to determine how this potential can be realised, & to further understand the complexities of the nature–human health relationship.

However, with additional research & support, there is huge potential for green prescriptions to contribute to both reactive (health care) & proactive (health promoting) public health solutions whilst enhancing the natural environment.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr016

12 January 2018

Ambient soil cation exchange capacity inversely associates with infectious & parasitic disease risk in regional Australia

Craig Liddicoat, Peng Bi, Michelle Waycott, John Glover, Martin F.Breed, Philip Weinstein

ABSTRACT

Human contact with soil may be important for building & maintaining normal healthy immune defence mechanisms, however this idea remains untested at the population-level.

In this continent-wide, cross-sectional study we examine the possible public health benefit of ambient exposures to soil of high cation exchange capacity (CEC), a surrogate for potential immunomodulatory soil microbial diversity.

We compare distributions of normalized mean 2011/12–2012/ 13 age-standardized public hospital admission rates (cumulative incidence) for infectious & parasitic diseases across regional Australia (representing an average of 29,516 patients/year in 228 local government areas), within tertiles of socioeconomic status & soil exposure.

To test the significance of soil CEC, we use probabilistic individual-level environmental exposure data (with or without soil), & group-level variables, in robust non-parametric multilevel modelling to predict disease rates in unseen groups.

Our results show that in socioeconomically-deprived areas with high CEC soils, rates of infectious & parasitic disease are significantly lower than areas with low CEC soils.

Also, health inequality (relative risk) due to socioeconomic status is significantly lower in areas with high CEC soils compared to low CEC soils (Δ relative risk = 0.47; 95% CI: 0.13, 0.82).

Including soil exposure when modelling rates of infectious and parasitic disease significantly improves prediction performance, explaining an additional 7.5% (Δ r2 = 0.075; 95% CI: 0.05, 0.10) of variation in disease risk, in local government areas that were not used for model building.

Our findings suggest that exposure to high CEC soils (typically high soil biodiversity) associates with reduced risk of infectious & parasitic diseases, particularly in lower socioeconomic areas.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr010

4 November 2017

High-throughput eDNA monitoring of fungi to track functional recovery in ecological restoration

DongFengYan, Jacob G.Mills, Nicholas J.C.Gellie, AndrewBissett, Andrew J.Lowe, Martin F.Breed

ABSTRACT

Fungi are key functional components of ecosystems (e.g. decomposers, symbionts), but are rarely included in restoration monitoring programs.

Many fungi occur below ground, making them difficult to observe directly, but are observable with environmental DNA (eDNA) methods.

Although eDNA approaches have been proposed as ecological monitoring tools for microbial diversity, their application to restoration projects is very limited.

We used eDNA metabarcoding of fungal ITS barcodes on soil collected across a 10-year restoration chronosequence to explore fungal responses to restoration.

We observed a dramatic shift in the fungal community towards that of the natural fungal community after just 10 years of active native plant revegetation. Agaricomycetes and other Basidiomycota – involved in wood decay and ectomycorrhizal symbiosis – increased in rarefied sequence abundance in older restored sites. Ascomycota dominated the fungal community, but decreased in rarefied sequence abundance across the restoration chronosequence.

Our results highlight eDNA metabarcoding as a useful restoration monitoring tool that allows quantification of changes in important fungal indicator groups linked with functional recovery &, being underground, are normally omitted in restoration monitoring.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr021

2017

20 October 2017

Landscape biodiversity correlates with respiratory health in Australia

Craig Liddicoat, Peng Bi, Michelle Waycott, John Glover, Andrew J.Lowe, Philip Weinstein

ABSTRACT

Megatrends of urbanisation & reducing contact with natural environments may pose a largely unappreciated risk to human health, particularly in children, through declining normal (healthy) immunomodulatory environmental exposures.

On the other hand, building knowledge of connections between environments, biodiversity & human health may offer new integrated ways of addressing global challenges of rising population health costs  &  declining biodiversity.

In this study we are motivated to build insight & provide context & priority for emerging research into potential protective (e.g. immunomodulatory) environmental exposures.

We use respiratory health as a test case to explore whether some types and qualities of environment may be more beneficial than others, & how such exposures may compare to known respiratory health influences, via a cross-sectional ecological epidemiology study for the continent of Australia.

Using Lasso penalized regression (to interpret key predictors from many candidate variables) & 10-fold cross-validation modelling (to indicate reproducibility & uncertainty), within different socio-geographic settings, our results show surrogate measures of landscape biodiversity correlate with respiratory health, & rank amongst known predictors.

A range of possible drivers for this relationship are discussed.

Perhaps most novel & interesting of these is the possibility of protective immunomodulatory influence from microbial diversity (suggested by the understudied ‘biodiversity hypothesis’) & other bioactive agents associated with biodiverse environ- ments.

If beneficial influences can be demonstrated from biodiverse environments on immunomodulation & human health, there may be potential to design new cost-effective nature-based health intervention programs to reduce the risk of immune-related disease at a population level.

Our approach & findings are also likely to have use in the evaluation of environment & health associations elsewhere.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr009

12 October 2017

Biodiverse green spaces: a prescription for global urban health

Emily J.Flies, Chris Skelly, Sagri Singh Negi, Poornima Prabhakaran, Qiyong Liu, Keke Liu, Fiona C.Goldizen, Chris Lease, Philip Weinstein

ABSTRACT

The world is urbanizing & chronic health conditions associated with urban living are on the rise.

There is mounting evidence that people with a diverse microbiome (bacteria that inhabit the human body) or who interact with green spaces enjoy better health.

However, studies have yet to directly examine how biodiverse urban green spaces (BUGS) might modify the human microbiome & reduce chronic disease.

Here we highlight the potential for green spaces to improve health by exposing people to environmental microorganisms that diversify human microbiomes & help regulate immune function.

We present four international perspectives (from Australia, China, India, & the UK) on the major challenges & benefits of using BUGS to alleviate health burdens.

We propose solutions to these challenges & outline studies that can test the connections between BUGS, immune function, & human health & provide the evidence base for effective BUGS design & use.

If further studies reinforce this hypothesis, then BUGS may become a viable tool to stem the global burden of urban-associated chronic diseases.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr003

11 October 2017

Urban habitat restoration provides a human health benefit through microbiome rewilding: the microbiome rewilding hypothesis

Jacob G.Mills, Philip Weinstein, Nicholas J.C.Gellie, Laura S.Weyrich, Andrew J.Lowe, Martin F.Breed

ABSTRACT

Restoration aims to return ecosystem services, including the human health benefits of exposure to green space.

The loss of such exposure with urbanization & industrialization has arguably contributed to an increase in human immune dysregulation.

The Biodiversity & Old Friends hypotheses have described the possible mechanisms of this relationship, & suggest that reduced exposure to diverse, beneficial microorganisms can result in negative health consequences.

However, it is unclear whether restoration of biodiverse habitat can reverse this effect, & what role the environmental microbiome might have in such recovery.

Here, we propose the Microbiome Rewilding Hypothesis, which specifically outlines that restoring biodiverse habitats in urban green spaces can rewild the environmental microbiome to a state that enhances primary prevention of human disease.

We support our hypothesis with examples from allied fields, including a case study of active restoration that reversed the degradation of the soil bacterial microbiome of a former pasture.

This case study used high‐throughput amplicon sequencing of environmental DNA to assess the quality of a restoration intervention in restoring the soil bacterial microbiome.

The method is rapid, scalable, & standardizable, & has great potential as a monitoring tool to assess functional outcomes of green‐space restoration.

Evidence for the Microbiome Rewilding Hypothesis will help motivate health professionals, urban planners, & restoration practitioners to collaborate & achieve co‐benefits.

Co‐benefits include improved human health outcomes & investment opportunities for biodiversity conservation & restoration.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr014

12 October 2016

Environmental change & human health: can environmental proxies inform the biodiversity hypothesis for protective microbial - human contact?

Craig Liddicoat, Michelle Waycott, Philip Weinstein

ABSTRACT

Microbiota from environmental sources overlap & interact with human microbiota, contribute to human microbial diversity, & provide beneficial immunomodulatory stimuli.

Meanwhile, reduced diversity in human microbiota & immune dysregulation have been associated with a range of diseases.

Emerging evidence suggests landscape-scale drivers of microbial diversity may influence our health, but the area remains understudied because of its multidisciplinary nature.

Here, we attempt to widen the view on this subject by offering an environmental researcher’s viewpoint, proposing a unifying conceptual framework to stimulate multidisciplinary interest.

To focus research in this challenging area, we propose greater emphasis on multiscale ecological links & that landscape-scale proxies for potential underlying microbial mechanisms be investigated to identify key environmental attributes & health relationships worthy of subsequent detailed examination.

Wherever possible, ecological epidemiological studies should account for the temporal nature of environmental microbiota exposures, especially with respect to the early development of the human commensal microbiota.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr008

2016

11 July 2016

Urban greenness influences airborne bacterial community composition

Gwynne Mhuireach, Bart R.Johnson, Adam E.Altrichter, Joshua Ladau, James F.Meadow, Katherine S.Pollard, Jessica L.Green

ABSTRACT

Urban green space provides health benefits for city dwellers, & new evidence suggests that microorganisms associated with soil & vegetation could play a role.

While airborne microorganisms are ubiquitous in urban areas, the influence of nearby vegetation on airborne microbial communities remains poorly understood.

We examined airborne microbial communities in parks & parking lots in Eugene, Oregon, using high-throughput sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene on the Illumina MiSeq platform to identify bacterial taxa, & GIS to measure vegetation cover in buffer zones of different diameters.

Our goal was to explore variation among highly vegetated (parks) versus non-vegetated (parking lots) urban environments.

A secondary objective was to evaluate passive versus active collection methods for outdoor airborne microbial sampling.

Airborne bacterial communities from five parks were different from those of five parking lots (p = 0.023), although alpha diversity was similar.

Direct gradient analysis showed that the proportion of vegetated area within a 50 m radius of the sampling station explained 15% of the variation in bacterial community composition.

A number of key taxa, including several Acidobacteriaceae were substantially more abundant in parks, while parking lots had higher relative abundance of Acetobacteraceae.

Parks had greater beta diversity than parking lots, i.e. individual parks were characterized by unique bacterial signatures, whereas parking lot communities tended to be similar to each other.

Although parks & parking lots were selected to form pairs of nearby sites, spatial proximity did not appear to affect compositional similarity.

Our results also showed that passive & active collection methods gave comparable results, indicating the “settling dish” method is effective for outdoor airborne sampling.

This work sets a foundation for understanding how urban vegetation may impact microbial communities, with potential implications for designing neighbourhoods & open space systems that foster better human health.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr012

23 October 2013

Regulation of the immune system by biodiversity from the natural environment:
an ecosystem service essential to health

Graham A.Rook

ABSTRACT

Epidemiological studies suggest that living close to the natural environment is associated with long-term health benefits including reduced death rates, reduced cardiovascular disease, & reduced psychiatric problems.

This is often attributed to psychological mechanisms, boosted by exercise, social interactions, & sunlight.

Compared with urban environments, exposure to green spaces does indeed trigger rapid psychological, physiological, & endocrinological effects.

However, there is little evidence that these rapid transient effects cause long-term health benefits or even that they are a specific property of natural environments.

Meanwhile, the illnesses that are increasing in high-income countries are associated with failing immunoregulation & poorly regulated inflammatory responses, manifested as chronically raised C-reactive protein & proinflammatory cytokines.

This failure of immunoregulation is partly attributable to a lack of exposure to organisms ("Old Friends") from mankind's evolutionary past that needed to be tolerated & therefore evolved roles in driving immunoregulatory mechanisms.

Some Old Friends (such as helminths & infections picked up at birth that established carrier states) are almost eliminated from the urban environment.

This increases our dependence on Old Friends derived from our mothers, other people, animals, & the environment.

It is suggested that the requirement for microbial input from the environment to drive immunoregulation is a major component of the beneficial effect of green space, & a neglected ecosystem service that is essential for our well-being.

This insight will allow green spaces to be designed to optimize health benefits & will provide impetus from health systems for the preservation of ecosystem biodiversity.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr005

2013

1 November 2011

Natural immunity: biodiversity loss & inflammatory diseases are two global megatrends that might be related

Leena von Hertzen, Ilkka Hanski, Tari Haahtela

ABSTRACT

We are witnessing two global & deeply worrying trends that, at first glance, seem unrelated.

The first trend is the ongoing decline in biodiversity, which is caused by human actions.

It could well become the sixth mass extinction of animal & plant species on Earth, comparable in magnitude with the fifth mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years ago.

The second trend is a rapid increase in chronic diseases that are associated with inflammation, especially in developed countries.

Inflammation is a key attribute in asthma & allergic diseases, autoimmune diseases & many cancers; even depression has been associated with the presence of inflammatory markers.

In this article, we argue that these two phenomena are more closely related than commonly thought: declining biodiversity might actually increase the risk to humanity from chronic diseases & thereby cause a major public health problem.

link to paper https://bit.ly/H_fr019

2011

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