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2012 EPA Research Progress Report

The Eco-Health Relationship Browser

Ecosystem services are the goods and services people derive from the natural environment, such as clean water, fertile soil for crop production, pollination, and flood control and water filtration from wetlands. While many of these services and their benefits are easily recognizable, many, such as air filtration, are not, and as a result are easy to undervalue.

To help communities and others better account for and protect the benefits they derive from the environment, in 2012 EPA researchers developed an Eco-Health Relationship Browser. The browser is designed to increase our understanding of the nation’s ecosystems, the services they provide, and how those services benefit public health and well being.

A screenshot from the Eco-Health Relationship Browser shows how water filtration links from multiple ecosystems and is associated with various public health concerns.

The publicly-available, Web-based browser uses a series of interactive “info-bubbles” to help users easily identify linkages between human health and ecosystem services. For example, forests are ecosystems that contribute to cleaner air through natural air filtration, and air pollution has been shown to be connected to the incidence of migraine headaches. Through this association, changes in forest ecosystems could be linked to frequency of migraines.

The info-bubbles also contain sidebar descriptions that briefly explain the selected topic and pop-up boxes that illuminate associated ecosystem service linkages, complete with citations of relevant scientific studies about the connections. A complete bibliography is also available from the browser webpage.

The Eco-Health Relationship Browser is one new tool in the Agency’s efforts to better understand and quantify connections between ecosystems, ecosystem services and human health. This information is critical for decision makers as they work to preserve and protect valuable and interconnected assets and strive to ensure sustainable and healthy communities.

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