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Aquatic Urban Ecosystems: Digital monitoring for human health and wellbeing

Lakes, streams, and rivers are integral to the urban environment and contribute significantly to it. Freshwater bodies such as these serve as water sources, points of leisure and relaxation, and corridors that connect fragmented natural areas while improving the sustainability of cities. 




These aquatic urban ecosystems, however, are often degraded by a lack of space, water pollution, noise, excessive lights, and other factors. This degradation can directly impinge on the lives of those living in cities. 


From a medical and public health perspective, they can increase the probability of pathogen emergence, lower the disease resistance of wildlife and humans, and increase the chances of disease severity as well as of diseases associated with reduced physical activity and heightened stress.
Currently, no systems exist which can identify diseases that originate from urban aquatic ecosystems or consider the various conditions which impact on phenomena from infectious diseases to mental ill-health and wellbeing -- nor do they provide solutions which mitigate the risks. 


The OneAquaHealth project ( will highlight the significance of these ecosystems for human mental and physical health while offering a cutting-edge AI-based environmental surveillance system to watch over and safeguard these locations.


Prof. Arriel Benis, head of HIT’s Department of Digital Medical Technologies, will actively contribute to this project as a member of the OneAquaHealth consortium. Prof. Benis will participate in developing an innovative digital environmental surveillance system ideally suited for urban areas and aquatic ecosystems. The system will enable the prediction of potential risks for human physical and mental health due to environmental alterations in aquatic ecosystems and suggest the means to prevent and mitigate those risks.


In doing so, this will help realize One Aqua Health’s mission of demonstrating how the wellbeing of aquatic ecosystems is highly interconnected with and vital for the population-at-large, urban health, and the mitigation of disease outbreaks. By enabling the continuous monitoring of aquatic urban ecosystems (comprising human and animal health), the surveillance system will also provide policymakers with much-needed tools for assessing ecosystem health and formulating adequate and timely policies. 


Notably, the OneAquaHealth project directly addresses the challenges imposed by growing global urbanization on nature and human health, namely, its preservation, specifically of freshwater ecosystems. The OneAquaHealth project will also adopt the One Digital Health (ODH) principles previously developed by Prof. Arriel Benis and partners from Italy, Belgium and Sweden. 
This four-year project has been awarded a total grant of Euro 5,000,000 from the European Union. The OneAquaHealth multidisciplinary academic partners hail from institutions in Portugal, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, Austria, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Israel.