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Understanding the Connections Between Coastal Waters and Ocean Ecosystem Services and Human Health

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Humans rely on the natural environment – such as oceans and coastal waters – for essential human services like providing food and essential dietary nutrients and purifying drinking water. These benefits are referred to as ecosystem services. Humans also rely on the environment for the natural cycles that renew oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide in the air and recycle nitrogen. Disruption to these processes can create negative effects on human health.

With growing populations and increasing standards of living globally, additional pressures will be placed on the world’s oceans and waterways to provide essential services. On November 13-14, 2012, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine held a workshop to discuss coastal waters and ocean ecosystem services in the United States and to understand the impacts on human health. Jack Spengler and Barton Seaver attended. This document summarizes the workshop.

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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