Research group Biodiversity & Health

Exploring the pathways linking biodiversity to human health and well-being - Volkswagenstiftung Symposium

VW Conference
Contacts Partners Funding Publications

Short description

Biodiversity impacts human health and wellbeing in a variety of ways. However, the causal mechanisms linking biodiversity to human health and well-being are little understood. This is because there is currently no framework that delineates the causal pathways by which biodiversity influences human health and wellbeing. This lack of causality in biodiversity and health relationships limits medical and ecological research as well as treatment development and policy influence for the use of biodiversity in public health interventions.

Our main aim is to synthesize the existing evidence on biodiversity and health, with a particular focus on the mediating, causal pathways, in order to create a biodiversity-health framework.

This symposium will draw insights from different fields, including ecology, psychology, environmental epidemiology, medicine, public health and geography, among others (which to-date have only partially analysed the effect of biodiversity on human health and wellbeing) to identify the underpinning mechanisms and appropriate methods and metrics to more robustly assess biodiversity’s influence on human health and well-being.


  1. Provide an overview of available data, metrics, exposure assessment methods, and the state of the art on associations of biodiversity with health
  2. Identify causal pathways linking biodiversity to health and develop a common framework
  3. Develop innovative and concrete research plans for future initiatives and collaborations which will explore these potential mechanisms.

Expected Outcomes

  1. Publication of a conceptual biodiversity and health framework, which synthesizes discussion from the symposium, in a peer-reviewed journal;
  2. Developing future joint research projects and proposals;
  3. Building future collaboration with CBD/WHO and IPBES; 
  4. Exchanging knowledge across disciplines, providing attendees the opportunity to be exposed to different perspectives, methods and datasets to study the interrelationships between biodiversity and health.


Dr. Melissa Marselle

Phone: +49 (0)341 97 33151


Prof. Dr. Aletta Bonn

Phone: +49 (0)341 97 33153



  • Prof. Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaese (Bik-F Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre)
  • Dr. Matthias Braubach (WHO Europe)
  • Prof. Dr. Penny Cook (University of Salford, School of Health Sciences)
  • Dr. Sjerp de Vries (Wageningen Environmental Research)
  • Prof. Dr. Terry Hartig (Institute for Housing and Urban Research, Uppsala University)
  • Dr. Katherine Irvine (James Hutton Institute)
  • Dr. Sonja Knapp (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research)
  • Prof. Dr. Sarah Lindley (University of Manchester, Department of Geography)
  • Dr. Ruth Müller (Environmental Toxicology & Medical Entomology Department, Goethe University Frankfurt)
  • Prof. Dr. Mark Nieuwenhuijsen (Barcelona Institute for Global Health, ISGlobal)
  • Dr. Jackie Potts (Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland)
  • Jutta Stadler (German Centre for Nature Conservation, BfN)
  • Prof. Dr. med. Sara Warber (University of Michigan, School of Medicine; European Centre for Environment & Human Health (ECEHH), University of Exeter Medical School)
  • Dr. Daniel Cox (Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter)
  • Dr. Siân De Bell (European Centre for Environment & Human Health (ECEHH), University of Exeter Medical School)
  • Dr. Anna Heintz-Buschart (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
  • Max Hofmann (German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
  • Dr. Nadja Kabisch (Humboldt University of Berlin)
  • Franziska Kolek (University Center of Health Sciences at the Klinikum Augsburg - UNIKA-T)
  • Roland Krämer (Humboldt University of Berlin)
  • Dr. Iana Markevych (Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health, Institute of Epidemiology)
  • Dr. Dörte Martens (Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development)
  • Dr. Margarita Triguero-Mas (Barcelona Laboratory for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability (BCNUEJ)
  • Dr. Samantha Walton (Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society)


This project is funded by Volkswagen Stiftung.