Environmental Biology & Health (EBH) thematic line, coordinated by Ana Lillebo, emerges from the need to give a special attention to the link between ecosystems and human well-being, which is seen as the main target of managing the socio-economic systems in line with Horizon 2020 societal challenges. This link is addressed via the flow of ecosystem services (ES), environmental sustainability and human health risk assessment in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems (from catchment to coast), foreseeing knowledge to support environmental governance and enhance public awareness on ES and human well-being. Due to the recognized contribution of Ria de Aveiro to the well-being of the surrounding populations, special attention is given to this coastal lagoon, in line with the strategic objectives of UA and CESAM.
EBH targeted research on: 1) Environmental sustainability, assessing global, regional and national environmental conditions and trends, with special focus on biota as sentinels; 2) Biological indicators, contributing to knowledge for the development and implementation of EU and national environmental instruments using relevant terrestrial and aquatic model species; 3) Human health risk assessment, identifying some of the contaminants and pathogens that have emerged in recent years and anticipate situations that endanger human health (e.g. emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria); 4) Ecosystem services and human well-being, improve knowledge of ecosystems and their services, in line with Action 5 of Biodiversity 2020 strategy; assessing the contributions that ecosystems make to human well-being, foreseeing the wise management of the environment; 5) Green economy, in line with UNEP working definition, i.e., an economy that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities; 6) Ria de Aveiro coastal lagoon, acting as a catalyst and facilitator to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the Aveiro region.
Research groups involved in the thematic line
- Stress Biology
- Functional Biodiversity
- Adaptation Biology & Ecological Processes
- Environmental processes & pollutants
- Marine & Estuarine Ecology
- Coastal Zone Planning & Management
- Atmospheric Processes & Modelling
- Oceanography & Marine Geology
Ecosystems are at risk of losing resilience, with decline in their provided services, due to multiple stressors in a scenario of climate changes. Environmental changes trigger the expression of new phenotypes in unicellular organisms, shifting their modes of interaction with plants and animals, including humans: emerging pathogens can be found among bacteria, fungi and parasites, showing novel patterns of infection transmission and affecting human health and non-human biota. In parallel, new types of antibiotic resistance are emerging in bacteria, with serious risks to human health. The well-being of populations, including human health, and the economic viability of human activities depend on the environmental quality status. In this context, the main Environmental Biology and Health thematic line objective is to bridge ecosystems and human well-being via the flow of ecosystem services, environmental sustainability and human health risk assessment, foreseeing knowledge to support environmental governance in line with EU policies: namely the Water Framework Directive (WFD), Habitats Directive; Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment Directives; REACH chemicals regulation; Integrated Coastal Zone Management Recommendation; Green economy and Horizon and Biodiversity 2020 strategies.
Due to the privilege location of UA, at the border of Ria de Aveiro, one of the largest coastal lagoons in Portugal, and to the recognized contribution of Ria to the well-being of the surrounding populations, being a representative natural laboratory for coastal wet areas, special attention is given to this coastal ecosystem, in line with the strategic objectives of UA and CESAM.
The research objectives and outcomes are defined within an action framework that aims:
- To provide ecological risk assessment, by evaluating the probabilities and magnitudes of harm that might come from environmental contaminants, including emergent contaminants of concern, and emergent pathogens;
- To access the flows and benefits driven from ecosystem services at present and in possible future scenarios, regarding social, economic and environmental issues as inseparable and interdependent components of human progress and human well-being;
- To contribute to EU mapping, assessment and valuation of ecosystems and the services they provide, in line with Action 5 of Biodiversity 2020 strategy;
- To develop scientific knowledge and policy-relevant solutions, foreseen environmental health and sustainability, in a multiple-stressors context, including climate change;
- To improve and develop methodologies that can be transposed to legislators and industry;
- To support the production of safe and sustainable nanoparticles and nanomaterials, taking into account the EU requests for decreasing vertebrate testing;
- To produce relevant scientific knowledge on environment and human health interactions regarding emergent pollutants and pathogens;
- To support new risk assessment guidelines foreseeing environmental and public health protection (e.g. regarding the emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria);
- To contribute to the effective implementation of EU Directives and Strategies, with special emphasis on biota;
- To contribute to a multidisciplinary assessment of coastal areas;
- To contribute to the integrated management of Ria de Aveiro and enhance the communication between academics, environmental managers, entrepreneurs and the local population;
- To reinforce partnerships with national and regional administrations such as ICNF, APA (Portuguese Environmental Agency), and CCDR (Portuguese Regional Development and Coordinating Commission);
- To promote technical and advance training courses;
- To promote outreach activities, including disseminating to students from schools, encouraging and motivating them to pursue careers in science; To engage citizens enhancing academics-stakeholders interactions; To strengthen international cooperation, namely with Portuguese speaking countries; and to enhance science-policy interface.