Project: How does environmental biodiversity affect wildlife health?

Acronym WILD HEALTH (Reference Number: 189)
Duration 01/03/2019 - 31/03/2022
Project Topic We aim to test the hypothesis that forest management affects wildlife health via an impact on environmental biodiversity and the associated microbial community (microbiome). We study biodiversity in forests as this biome includes some 80% of global terrestrial biodiversity, and it is important for wildlife, human economies and recreation. Increasing pressure to utilize forest resources necessitates a detailed study the range of impacts that forest management might have on biodiversity and associated ecosystem function. In humans, biodiversity has a positive impact on health (fewer allergies) via an effect on the diversity of skin bacteria. It is unknown whether biodiversity confers a comparable health benefit to wildlife. Thus, we propose a novel study that quantifies diverse measures of ‘health’ (including microbial community diversity, parasite/pathogen infection, body condition) in rodents (the bank vole) and moose inhabiting different forest habitats. We focus on the associations between the wild animal (the host) and its commensal microbes (microbiome). Crucially, we aim to quantify the functional role that these bacteria play (e.g. supplying energy, inflammation, parasite/pathogen burden) and determine how the bacteria might be affected across multiple levels of biodiversity (e.g. land use, habitat, diet). Our research is timely given the recognition of the role of the microbiome in organism health. But with few studies outside humans and laboratory animal models it is not known whether human actions cause an imbalance in the microbiome (dysbiosis) in wildlife. This project’s outcomes are relevant to global challenges in biodiversity conservation by providing (i) a better understanding of the role of forestry management, biodiversity and wildlife and human health and (ii) new avenues for ecological monitoring. Moreover, evidence that biodiversity impacts human health via an effect on wildlife health, and concomitant increase in parasite burden suspected to increase zoonotic risk for humans, has clear implications for our management of natural resources.
Network BiodivScen
Call Scenarios of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 University of Oulu Coordinator Finland
2 Natural Resources Institute Finland Partner Finland
3 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Partner Sweden
4 University of Alaska Anchorage Partner United States
5 University of Jyväskylä Partner Finland