A butterfly flaps its wings: Extinction of biological experience and the origins of allergy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To explore links between biodiversity on all scales and allergic disease as a measure of immune dysregulation. Data Sources: PubMed and Web of Science were searched using the keywords biodiversity, nature relatedness, allergic disease, microbiome, noncommunicable diseases, coronavirus disease 2019, and associated terms. Study Selection: Studies were selected based on relevance to human health and biodiversity. Results: Contact with natural environments enriches the human microbiome, promotes regulated immune responses, and protects against allergy and both acute and chronic inflammatory disorders. These important links to ecopsychological constructs of the extinction of experience, which indicates that loss of direct, personal contact with biodiversity (wildlife and the more visible elements of the natural world), might lead to emotional apathy and irresponsible behaviors toward the environment. Conclusion: The immune system is a useful early barometer of environmental effects and, by means of the microbiome, is a measure of the way in which our current experiences differ from our ancestral past. Although we would benefit from further research, efforts to increase direct, personal contact with biodiversity have clear benefits for multiple aspects of physical and mental health, the skin and gut microbiome, immune function, food choices, sleep, and physical activity and promote environmental responsibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-534
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
Issue number5
Early online date29 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


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