Compromised ecosystem services from urban aerial microbiomes: a review of impacts on human immune function
Flies, EJ and Jones, P and Buettel, JC and Brook, BW, Compromised ecosystem services from urban aerial microbiomes: a review of impacts on human immune function, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 8 Article 568902. ISSN 2296-701X (2020) [Refereed Article]
Biodiverse environments contribute to human health through a wide range of
ecosystem services: from providing food and medicines to filtering our air and water.
Exposure to biodiverse, airborne microbial communities (aerobiomes) contributes to
the development of healthy human-immune function. This overlooked but potentially
powerful ecosystem service is akin to nature’s provision of traditional medicines and
pharmaceutical compounds. But urban environments appear to support less diverse
aerobiomes, suppressing this ecosystem service and potentially contributing to urbanassociated
diseases through altered immune function. Here, we synthesize the known
relationships between aerobiome biodiversity and health and present the experimentally
demonstrated mechanisms that connect aerobiome exposure to immune function.
We then summarize what is currently known about the effect of urbanization on
aerobiomes and identify several important knowledge gaps in this field, including
a lack of rigorous, experimental, multi-scale studies demonstrating the mechanistic
pathways between urbanization, altered aerobiomes and human health. We offer
practical approaches that can close these knowledge gaps and will facilitate the transfer
of knowledge and technology between microbiologists, urban ecologists and publichealth
practitioners. This synthesis should stimulate interdisciplinary research efforts
to advance our understanding of how urbanization is impacting aerobiome ecosystem
services, and what that means for human health.