Nature is a Treasure Trove for Human Well-Being

Nature is a Treasure Trove for Human Well-Being
And there is plenty of research that supports the connection between environmental health and human health. That's why policymakers, conservation champions, health practitioners and many others seek data and research to help them make environmental decisions that have an impact on food security, global health, human rights and good governance. But where do you begin a search for information like that?

Meet Dr. Samantha Cheng, of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). She recently spoke in Washington D.C. at the invitation of USAID's Biodiversity Results and Integrated Development Gains Enhanced (BRIDGE) project, which supports the Office of Forestry and Biodiversity. As a post-doctoral research fellow for the Science for Nature and People Partnership, Cheng, with help from other researchers, has launched an online data portal she likens to a treasure-hunting tool. The Evidence for Nature and People Data Portal sifts through thousands of publications and research articles on topics related to human well-being and nature conservation. Cheng says the need for evidence-based decision making is clear and there are decades-old collections of research worth consulting. But many barriers get in the way of actually tapping into this evidence. “Perhaps the biggest barriers are time, access and ability to efficiently measure the quality of the content,” she says. “Imagine, as one journalist pointed out, a solution to a key environmental problem might be tucked away on a PDF somewhere nobody can find it.”

The portal allows curious minds to seek evidence-based links between conservation interventions and human well-being outcomes, such as living standards, livelihoods, health, culture and good governance in their countries. The applications for this tool are many and diverse, not only for decision makers but for researchers, practitioners in all of these sectors and even to civil society actors advocating conservation.

Cheng believes the tool has the potential to change key decisions for global conservation—actions taken today in order to address environmental challenges will have long-lasting impact. The goal is to support decision making that is rooted in multiple perspectives and founded on sound evidence.

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