The field of eco-epidemiology is very broad. If scientists consider a river, they need to know the type of organisms in the aquatic community, the river flow speed, its size, depth and water temperature, the type of river bed… and then they begin to factor in the potential chemical changes.
Research is done to understand how the chemistry of the environment affects the health of aquatic communities. Questions included:
- there many toxic chemicals?
- is the pH in the right range?
- are nutrient concentrations too high?
- are there too many suspended solids?
As the environment has become cleaner, scientists have realized that we also need to better understand the physical environment to make additional improvements to our ecosystem. This is especially true for flowing water systems (rivers, streams, creeks). Physical factors in the river that affect the number and type of species present include:
- river size,
- river flow,
- river temperature, and,
- the type of bottom (sand, rock, etc.).
All of these factors play a role in defining what organisms and how many are present in the river. Changes in the chemical or physical nature of a site can impact the fish, algae and invertebrates that live there. Studying both the chemical and physical nature of the environment and how they both contribute to the health of the ecosystem is ecological epidemiology or eco-epidemiology.
P&G is helping to lead this relatively new science (see Eco-epidemiology publications listed below).