THE DIVERSITY of life on earth is directly related to human health. As environmentalists sound warnings about the human destruction of natural habitats, the message they send does not concern just the possible extinction of some avian, mammal, botanical, or other species, but the survival of humankind itself.
Physicians hardly need to be reminded of the adverse health effects of air pollution or excessive exposure to ultraviolet light. But they may be less aware of the implications for human health of the effects of global warming, or that changing patterns of precipitation can affect the spread of infectious diseases by altering the ranges of insect vectors, or that the destruction of plants and trees could reduce the sources of new medicines derived from botanical products and microorganisms.
This interconnecting relationship between biological diversity ("biodiversity") and human health was the topic of a symposium held in Washington, DC, and sponsored by