Dryland Salinity and Ecosystem Distress Syndrome: Human Health Implications
Jardine, A and Speldewinde, P and Carver, SS and Weinstein, P, Dryland Salinity and Ecosystem Distress Syndrome: Human Health Implications, Ecohealth, 4 pp. 10-17. ISSN 1612-9202 (2007) [Non Refereed Article]
Clearing of native vegetation for agriculture has left 1.047 million hectares of southwest Western
Australia affected by dryland salinity, and this area may expand up to a further 1.7–3.4 million hectares if
trends continue. Ecosystems in saline-affected regions display many of the classic characteristics of Ecosystem
Distress Syndrome, one outcome of which has not yet been investigated in relation to dryland salinity: adverse
human health implications. This article seeks to review existing information and identify potential adverse
human health effects. Three key potential impacts on human health resulting from dryland salinity are
identified: wind-borne dust and respiratory health; altered ecology of the mosquito-borne disease Ross River
virus; and mental health consequences of salinity-induced environmental degradation. Given the predicted
increase in extent and severity of dryland salinity over coming decades, adverse outcomes of salinity are likely
to be further exacerbated, including those related to human health. There is a clear need to investigate the
issues discussed in this review and also to identify other potential adverse health effects of dryland salinity.
Investigations must be multidisciplinary to sufficiently examine the broad scope of these issues. The relationship
between human health and salinity may also be relevant beyond Australia in other countries where
secondary soil salinization is occurring.