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Special Issue "Oceans and Human Health: The Importance of Marine Ecosystems on Human Health and Wellbeing"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 February 2021).

Image courtesy of Lluís Mas Blanch

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Josep Lloret
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Chair Oceans and Human Health, Institute of Aquatic Ecology, University of Girona, C/ Maria Aurèlia Capmany 69, 17003 Girona, Catalonia, Spain
Interests: oceans and human health; seafood security and safety; marine recreational activities and health; conservation of healthy marine ecosystems
Dr. Bruce Maycock
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Academic Consortium of Public Health, APACPH KL Secretariat Office, Department of Social & Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, 50603 University of Malaya, Malaysia
Interests: oceans and human health; public health; health promotion; nutrition; marine food security; marine recreational activities and health; conservation of healthy marine ecosystems

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The Oceans and Human Health (OHH) topic addresses different aspects that have often been treated independently but in reality are closely related, such as the conservation of marine ecosystems, the promotion of health, and the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. The aim of this Special Issue is to attract papers about the relationship between marine ecosystems and human health and wellbeing. We encourage original research submissions and systematic reviews focusing on the relationship between marine ecosystems’ goods and services and public health. We welcome studies that examine (a) the benefits (e.g., omega 3 fatty acids, proteins) and risks (e.g., parasites, contaminants, biotoxins) of seafood consumption on people’s health (cardiovascular risk, cancer, allergies, mental health, etc.) and (b) the benefits of maritime and costal recreational activities such as swimming, scuba diving, sailing, etc. on the health and wellbeing of people (healthy or suffering any pathology). Studies incorporating different disciplines (marine and fisheries biology and ecology, medicine, epidemiology, veterinary, marine policy, and social sciences) that link directly to the OHH topic are welcome. We particularly encourage those studies that consider the relevance of the marine ecosystem’s preservation (e.g., through marine protected areas and other management tools) to human health, food security and wellbeing and the sustainability development goals.

Dr. Josep Lloret
Dr. Bruce Maycock
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • oceans and human health
  • risks and benefits
  • seafood consumption
  • maritime recreational activities
  • mental and physical health
  • wellbeing
  • blue spaces
  • blue health
  • overfishing, plastic pollution

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Article
Coastal Communities, Leisure and Wellbeing: Advancing a Trans-Disciplinary Agenda for Understanding Ocean-Human Relationships in Aotearoa New Zealand
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(2), 450; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020450 - 08 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1657
Abstract
Commentators are advocating for research to better understand relationships between healthy coastal ecosystems and human wellbeing. Doing so requires inter- and transdisciplinary approaches across humanities, arts, social sciences, and science and technology disciplines. These approaches include culturally diverse knowledge systems, such as indigenous [...] Read more.
Commentators are advocating for research to better understand relationships between healthy coastal ecosystems and human wellbeing. Doing so requires inter- and transdisciplinary approaches across humanities, arts, social sciences, and science and technology disciplines. These approaches include culturally diverse knowledge systems, such as indigenous ones, that locate sustainable use of and relationships to marine ecosystems. This paper contributes to this agenda through a case-study of relationships between coastal ecosystems and human wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand. This article highlights interconnected cultural and wellbeing benefits of, and socio-ecological relationships between, these coastal ecosystems drawing on a case study of one ocean-based, ‘immersive’ leisure activity, surfing. Further, it examines how these relationships impact human physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, and the wellbeing of communities and ecosystems. The research illustrates that surfing creates strong bonds between practitioners and coastal places, linking the health of marine environments and people. We demonstrate the value of a transdisciplinary place-based approach that integrates research across the humanities and social sciences and engages with Indigenous knowledge (Mātauranga Māori). This argument for multicultural co-learning shows the value of Western and Māori vantage points for how we understand coastal blue spaces. Indigenous perspectives, we conclude, deepen appreciation, as well as equity considerations, of how we understand place, wellbeing, and long-term sustainable relationships with marine ecosystems. Full article
Article
Benefits of Outdoor Sports in Blue Spaces. The Case of School Nautical Activities in Viana do Castelo
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(22), 8470; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17228470 - 16 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1116
Abstract
Participating in outdoor sports in blue spaces is recognized to produce a range of significant social benefits. This case study empirically analyzes the social benefits associated with the School Nautical Activities project carried out in Viana do Castelo (Portugal) in school-age children and [...] Read more.
Participating in outdoor sports in blue spaces is recognized to produce a range of significant social benefits. This case study empirically analyzes the social benefits associated with the School Nautical Activities project carried out in Viana do Castelo (Portugal) in school-age children and adolescents. It consisted of a 4 year program in which scholars took part in nautical activities (surfing, rowing, sailing, and canoeing) in blue spaces once a week during a semester as a part of their physical education course. The methods used for data collection were as follows: (1) a survey answered by 595 participants in the program and (2) five focus groups (FG): two FGs with participants (seven on each FG), two FGs with their parents (eight participants each), and one FG with the physical education teachers (five participants). Interviews were transcribed and qualitative analysis with NVivo software was developed. Results revealed clear evidence on the social benefits for school-age children and adolescents associated with participation in outdoor activities in blue spaces both in the overall health and in all the following analyzed categories: mental health and well-being, education, active citizenship, social behavior, and environmental awareness. More than 40% state that their overall health is much better now (13.4%) or somewhat better now (29.9%) due to their participation in the program. Thus, this article provides support for the anecdotal recognition of the benefits for school-age children and adolescents from participating in sports in the outdoors and especially in blue spaces. Full article
Article
The Beneficial Effects of Short-Term Exposure to Scuba Diving on Human Mental Health
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(19), 7238; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17197238 - 03 Oct 2020
Viewed by 2377
Abstract
Exposure to outdoor blue spaces can help improve human health by reducing stress, promoting social relationships, and physical activity. While most studies have focused on the adverse health effects of scuba diving, very few have assessed its health benefits. Moreover, when scuba diving [...] Read more.
Exposure to outdoor blue spaces can help improve human health by reducing stress, promoting social relationships, and physical activity. While most studies have focused on the adverse health effects of scuba diving, very few have assessed its health benefits. Moreover, when scuba diving is done in large groups with no diving instructor or pre-dive briefing, negative environmental impacts are generated and negative impacts on human health may also occur due to overcrowding, which may create stress. This is the first study to evaluate the effects of scuba diving on divers’ mental health using their diving practices to estimate the impacts on the ecosystem. In the marine-protected area of Cap de Creus and adjacent areas, we assessed the mental health of 176 divers and 70 beach users (control group) by employing a 29-item version of Profile of Mood State (POMS) questionnaires. According to the parameters associated with reduced environmental impacts, two scuba diving experiences were established. Poisson regression models were performed to assess both the contribution of the activity and diving experiences to POMS scores. Both groups (scuba divers and beach goers) reduced their POMS scores after carrying out the activities. Although no significant differences were found between beach and scuba diving activities, nor between the two different scuba diving experiences, our results showed that subjects with regular medication intake due to a chronic or psychiatric illness had a POMS reduction score significantly higher than other subjects. We conclude that both beach and scuba diving activities have positive effects for human mental health, particularly among subjects with regular medication intake. Full article
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Article
Ecological Engineering for the Optimisation of the Land-Based Marine Aquaculture of Coastal Shellfish
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(19), 7224; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17197224 - 02 Oct 2020
Viewed by 910
Abstract
Whilst the demand for nutritious and sustainable seafood is increasing, fishing yields are declining due to overfishing and climate change. The inshore aquaculture of marine molluscs—e.g., the suspension-feeding cockle Cerastoderma edule for NW Europe—might be an alternative practice if cost-effective and nature-based technology [...] Read more.
Whilst the demand for nutritious and sustainable seafood is increasing, fishing yields are declining due to overfishing and climate change. The inshore aquaculture of marine molluscs—e.g., the suspension-feeding cockle Cerastoderma edule for NW Europe—might be an alternative practice if cost-effective and nature-based technology enhances growth and survival. Our inshore experiments revealed that increasing the seawater residence time resulted in improved water quality. The reduction in sediment loads and stimulation of pelagic microalgal growth resulted in enhanced shell growth and meat content of the wild cockles seeded into the system. Shorter residence times resulted also in an increase in benthic microalgae, but the concurrent increase in silt content of the sediment appeared to hamper effective filtration by cockles. The growth conditions (with respect to the water and sediment quality) for the inshore cultivation of cockles can indeed be improved by means of ecological engineering, suggesting that the inshore aquaculture of marine shellfish can provide sustainable food and income for coastal communities, in particular when the shellfish farms are located in low-lying salinized coastal areas where common agriculture practices are no longer profitable. The involvement of the shellfishery industry was and will be crucial for studying and understanding the complex practice of cockle cultivation. Full article
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Article
The Roses Ocean and Human Health Chair: A New Way to Engage the Public in Oceans and Human Health Challenges
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(14), 5078; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17145078 - 14 Jul 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1294
Abstract
Involving and engaging stakeholders is crucial for studying and managing the complex interactions between marine ecosystems and human health and wellbeing. The Oceans and Human Health Chair was founded in the town of Roses (Catalonia, Spain, NW Mediterranean) in 2018, the fruit of [...] Read more.
Involving and engaging stakeholders is crucial for studying and managing the complex interactions between marine ecosystems and human health and wellbeing. The Oceans and Human Health Chair was founded in the town of Roses (Catalonia, Spain, NW Mediterranean) in 2018, the fruit of a regional partnership between various stakeholders, and for the purpose of leading the way to better health and wellbeing through ocean research and conservation. The Chair is located in an area of the Mediterranean with a notable fishing, tourist, and seafaring tradition and is close to a marine reserve, providing the opportunity to observe diverse environmental conditions and coastal and maritime activities. The Chair is a case study demonstrating that local, collaborative, transdisciplinary, trans-sector, and bottom-up approaches offer tremendous opportunities for engaging coastal communities to help support long-lasting solutions that benefit everyone, and especially those living by the sea or making their living from the goods and services provided by the sea. Furthermore, the Chair has successfully integrated most of its experts in oceans and human health from the most prestigious institutions in Catalonia. The Chair focuses on three main topics identified by local stakeholders: Fish and Health; Leisure, Health, and Wellbeing; and Medicines from the Sea. Led by stakeholder engagement, the Chair can serve as a novel approach within the oceans and human health field of study to tackle a variety of environmental and public health challenges related to both communicable and non-communicable diseases, within the context of sociocultural issues. Drawing on the example provided by the Chair, four principles are established to encourage improved participatory processes in the oceans and human health field: bottom-up, “think local”, transdisciplinary and trans-sectorial, and “balance the many voices”. Full article
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Review

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Review
Ciguatera Mini Review: 21st Century Environmental Challenges and the Interdisciplinary Research Efforts Rising to Meet Them
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(6), 3027; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063027 - 15 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1183
Abstract
Globally, the livelihoods of over a billion people are affected by changes to marine ecosystems, both structurally and systematically. Resources and ecosystem services, provided by the marine environment, contribute nutrition, income, and health benefits for communities. One threat to these securities is ciguatera [...] Read more.
Globally, the livelihoods of over a billion people are affected by changes to marine ecosystems, both structurally and systematically. Resources and ecosystem services, provided by the marine environment, contribute nutrition, income, and health benefits for communities. One threat to these securities is ciguatera poisoning; worldwide, the most commonly reported non-bacterial seafood-related illness. Ciguatera is caused by the consumption of (primarily) finfish contaminated with ciguatoxins, potent neurotoxins produced by benthic single-cell microalgae. When consumed, ciguatoxins are biotransformed and can bioaccumulate throughout the food-web via complex pathways. Ciguatera-derived food insecurity is particularly extreme for small island-nations, where fear of intoxication can lead to fishing restrictions by region, species, or size. Exacerbating these complexities are anthropogenic or natural changes occurring in global marine habitats, e.g., climate change, greenhouse-gas induced physical oceanic changes, overfishing, invasive species, and even the international seafood trade. Here we provide an overview of the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century regarding the many facets of ciguatera, including the complex nature of this illness, the biological/environmental factors affecting the causative organisms, their toxins, vectors, detection methods, human-health oriented responses, and ultimately an outlook towards the future. Ciguatera research efforts face many social and environmental challenges this century. However, several future-oriented goals are within reach, including digital solutions for seafood supply chains, identifying novel compounds and methods with the potential for advanced diagnostics, treatments, and prediction capabilities. The advances described herein provide confidence that the tools are now available to answer many of the remaining questions surrounding ciguatera and therefore protection measures can become more accurate and routine. Full article
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Review
Ocean Acidification and Human Health
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(12), 4563; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124563 - 24 Jun 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 4299
Abstract
The ocean provides resources key to human health and well-being, including food, oxygen, livelihoods, blue spaces, and medicines. The global threat to these resources posed by accelerating ocean acidification is becoming increasingly evident as the world’s oceans absorb carbon dioxide emissions. While ocean [...] Read more.
The ocean provides resources key to human health and well-being, including food, oxygen, livelihoods, blue spaces, and medicines. The global threat to these resources posed by accelerating ocean acidification is becoming increasingly evident as the world’s oceans absorb carbon dioxide emissions. While ocean acidification was initially perceived as a threat only to the marine realm, here we argue that it is also an emerging human health issue. Specifically, we explore how ocean acidification affects the quantity and quality of resources key to human health and well-being in the context of: (1) malnutrition and poisoning, (2) respiratory issues, (3) mental health impacts, and (4) development of medical resources. We explore mitigation and adaptation management strategies that can be implemented to strengthen the capacity of acidifying oceans to continue providing human health benefits. Importantly, we emphasize that the cost of such actions will be dependent upon the socioeconomic context; specifically, costs will likely be greater for socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, exacerbating the current inequitable distribution of environmental and human health challenges. Given the scale of ocean acidification impacts on human health and well-being, recognizing and researching these complexities may allow the adaptation of management such that not only are the harms to human health reduced but the benefits enhanced. Full article
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Other

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Commentary
Taking the Long View for Oceans and Human Health Connection through Community Driven Science
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(5), 2662; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18052662 - 06 Mar 2021
Viewed by 984
Abstract
The most proactive approach to resolving current health and climate crises will require a long view, focused on establishing and fostering partnerships to identify and eliminate root causes of the disconnect between humans and nature. We describe the lessons learned through a unique [...] Read more.
The most proactive approach to resolving current health and climate crises will require a long view, focused on establishing and fostering partnerships to identify and eliminate root causes of the disconnect between humans and nature. We describe the lessons learned through a unique scientific partnership that addresses a specific crisis, harmful algal blooms (HABs), along the northeast Pacific Ocean coast, that blends current-day technology with observational knowledge of Indigenous communities. This integrative scientific strategy resulted in creative solutions for forecasting and managing HAB risk in the Pacific Northwest as a part of the US Ocean and Human Health (OHH) program. Specific OHH projects focused on: (1) understanding genetic responses of tribal members to toxins in the marine environment, (2) knowledge sharing by elders during youth camps; (3) establishing an early warning program to alert resource managers of HABs are explicit examples of proactive strategies used to address environmental problems. The research and monitoring projects with tribal communities taught the collaborating non-Indigenous scientists the value of reciprocity, highlighting both the benefits from and protection of oceans that promote our well-being. Effective global oceans and human health initiatives require a collective action that gives equal respect to all voices to promote forward thinking solutions for ocean health. Full article
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