Is biodiversity good for your health?

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Science  17 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6245, pp. 235-236
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7892

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On a floodplain of the River Saale near Jena, Germany, grassland plants are naturally bombarded by spores of pathogenic fungi. But whether or not those fungi cause infection turns out to be largely about the neighborhood: Plants on highly diverse experimental plots have much lower levels of infection than plants grown in monoculture (1) (see the photos). The pathogens, it appears, are less likely to encounter their optimal host on the more diverse plots, which reduces disease prevalence and incidence. This protective effect of diversity has been found in many studies, not just for plants but also for diseases afflicting humans and wildlife. It has remained unclear, however, whether this observation holds generally (2, 3). In a recent paper, Civitello et al. addressed this question in a rigorous meta-analysis of diversity-disease relationships (4).