Published on 6 March 2019

Environmental changes have a strong impact on human, plant and animal health. To what degree? And what adjustments could be made? These are the questions that the scientists of Université Paris-Saclay are trying to answer.

The world is changing. This information is nothing new, but it is a object of research. This is because climate change, loss of biodiversity as well as pollution have an impact on human, plant and animal health. To study this phenomenon, researchers of Université Paris-Saclay are focusing on cross-disciplinary fields, as in the ACE-ICSEN project (Adaptation to Environmental Changes – Institute for Socio-Environmental Changes).

Launched in 2017, following a call for ‘Strategic Initiative’ projects by Université Paris- Saclay, it brings together seven laboratories* and is dedicated to three broad fields of research: biodiversity, climate change, and health and environment. Sophie Godin-Beekmann, who coordinates the project, explains that “the aim is to place humanities at the heart of each subject”.

Captors and health hazards

As such, ACE-ICSEN has joined the Polluscope project of the National Research Agency project as well as the Previpol project. The first uses captors to measure air pollution among volunteers, and the other measures levels of pollens in the air. The Institute has added the dimension of humanities to the study by taking an interest, in the first project, in the acceptability of captors, and in the second project, in the changes in behaviour due to allergy risks. “We aim to improve epidemiological models in order to provide enhances tools for studies on a larger scale”, explains the coordinator. Two ACE-ICSEN teams are also working on the measurement and analysis of contaminants in rivers and will map, in 2019, the population affected by this pollution. This first stage is essential to identify the risks of pollution and their impact on human health.

Wheat and climate changes

In terms of plant health, many researchers are focusing on climate change. Among them, a team of scientists from the Inra, AgroParis-Tech, CEA and CNRS has just published a study on the impact of extreme climate events on wheat yield.

The 2016 observation showed that wheat yield in the main are of production in France has decreased by 20 to 50% compared to yields observed over the past sixty years. Scientists therefore studied over half a century co-occurrences between abnormal climatic events and severe yield loss. They discovered that the probability of the former occurring increases following an excess of rain in the spring, and further increases if this excess is combined with a particularly warm end of autumn, as in 2015.

However, researchers believe that uncertainties on climate in the future are too important to calculate a pertinent probable future yield loss. “What we can say is that these two variables – end of autumn temperatures and rainfall in the spring – were exceptional in 2015-2016, although the first variable will tend to be more frequent”, summarizes Tamara Ben-Ari, of the Agronomy Laboratory (AgroParisTech/ Inra). “As such, we can consider that loss of yield will also become more frequent. In the future, agricultural systems will be faced with the difficult task of bring resilient to very different shocks, from drought to excess rain”.

Pigs and antibiotics

Resilience, resistance… these are the keys to climate change. The stakes are as high in livestock, where agro-ecological transition and reducing the use of antibiotics is where the ambition lies. Claire Rogel-Gaillard of the Animal Genetics and Integrative Biology Laboratory (AgroParisTech/Inra), is working on this subject: she is studying cohorts of pigs to identify the links between immune competence and individual variability to resistance to pathogens and response to vaccination. “We have established that there is a genetic control of immune parameters, and that it is possible to select animals according to this criterion”, explains the scientist. “We are also studying the variables of intestinal flora and its interactions with immune response. We are also trying to link these individual variables to that of pathogen responses, or to vaccination in livestock, in real conditions.

Claire Rogel-Gaillard has shared her work with her colleagues of the Predict project, which led to a conference on “Health and Predictive Biology” in May 2017, in collaboration with the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Paris-Saclay (Paris-Saclay House of Human and Social Sciences). The conference proceedings are available, free of charge, and might encourage new interdisciplinary collaborations, essential to work on adapting to climate changes.


* The ACE-ICSEN project groups: The Observatory Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (OVSQ – Université Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines); the Cultures, Environments, Arctic, Representations, Climate Laboratory (CEARC – Université Versailles Saint-Quentinen- Yvelines); the Sciences of Climate and Environment Laboratory (LSCE – CEA/CNRS/Université Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines); the Ecology, Systematic, Evolution Laboratory (ESE – AgroParisTech/CNRS/ Université Paris-Sud); The Geosciences Laboratory Paris- Sud (GEOPS - CNRS/Université Paris-Sud) ; The Data and Algorithm for an Intelligent and Sustainable City (DAVID – Université Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines); the Aging and Chronic Disease Laboratory (VIMA – Inserm/ Université Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines).



∙ Froger, C. et al., Tracing the sources of suspended sediment and particle-bound trace metal elements in an urban catchment coupling elemental and isotopic geochemistry, and fallout radionuclides. Environ Sci Pollut Res, 2018.

∙ Tamara Ben-Ari et al., Causes and implications of the unforeseen 2016 extreme yield loss in the breadbasket of France. Nature Communications. 24 april 2018.

∙ T. Maroilley et al., Immunome differences between porcine ileal and jejunal Peyer’s patches revealed by global transcriptome sequencing of gut-associated lymphoid tissues. Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number : 9077, 2018.

« Adaptation is also how environmental changes is perceived by the population. »

Sophie Godin-Beekmann is an atmospheric physicist at the Atmosphere, Environment and Space Observation Laboratory (LATMOS – CNRS/ Sorbonne Université/Université Versailles Saint- Quentin-en-Yvelines) and also President of the international commission on the ozone. From 2012 to 2017 she was Director of the Versailles Saint- Quentin-en-Yvelines Observatory.

The original version of this article was published in L'Edition #9.