Nav: Home

Ecosystem degradation could raise risk of pandemics

June 29, 2020

Environmental destruction may make pandemics more likely and less manageable, new research suggests.

The study, by the University of the West of England and the Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter, presents the hypothesis that disease risks are "ultimately interlinked" with biodiversity and natural processes such as the water cycle.

Using a framework designed to analyse and communicate complex relationships between society and the environment, the study concludes that maintaining intact and fully functioning ecosystems and their associated environmental and health benefits is key to preventing the emergence of new pandemics.

The loss of these benefits through ecosystem degradation - including deforestation, land use change and agricultural intensification - further compounds the problem by undermining water and other resources essential for reducing disease transmission and mitigating the impact of emerging infectious diseases.

Lead author Dr Mark Everard, of the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), said: "Ecosystems naturally restrain the transfer of diseases from animals to humans, but this service declines as ecosystems become degraded.

"At the same time, ecosystem degradation undermines water security, limiting availability of adequate water for good hand hygiene, sanitation and disease treatment.

"Disease risk cannot be dissociated from ecosystem conservation and natural resource security."

Dr David Santillo, of the Greenpeace Research Laboratories at Exeter, added: "The speed and scale with which radical actions have been taken in so many countries to limit the health and financial risks from COVID-19 demonstrate that radical systemic change would also be possible in order to deal with other global existential threats, such as the climate emergency and collapse of biodiversity, provided the political will is there to do so."

The researchers say the lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is that societies globally need to "build back better", including protecting and restoring damaged ecosystems (in line with the goals of the 2021-2030 UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration) keeping the many values of nature and human rights at the very forefront of environmental and economic policy-making.
-end-
The paper, published in the journal Environmental Science and Policy, is entitled: "The role of ecosystems in mitigation and management of Covid-19 and other zoonoses."

University of Exeter

Related Biodiversity Articles:

Biodiversity hypothesis called into question
How can we explain the fact that no single species predominates?
Using the past to maintain future biodiversity
New research shows that safeguarding species and ecosystems and the benefits they provide for society against future climatic change requires effective solutions which can only be formulated from reliable forecasts.
Changes in farming urgent to rescue biodiversity
Humans depend on farming for their survival but this activity takes up more than one-third of the world's landmass and endangers 62% of all threatened species.
Predicting the biodiversity of rivers
Biodiversity and thus the state of river ecosystems can now be predicted by combining environmental DNA with hydrological methods, researchers from the University of Zurich and Eawag have found.
About the distribution of biodiversity on our planet
Large open-water fish predators such as tunas or sharks hunt for prey more intensively in the temperate zone than near the equator.
Bargain-hunting for biodiversity
The best bargains for conserving some of the world's most vulnerable salamanders and other vertebrate species can be found in Central Texas and the Appalachians, according to new conservation tools developed at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Researchers solve old biodiversity mystery
The underlying cause for why some regions are home to an extremely large number of animal species may be found in the evolutionary adaptations of species, and how they limit their dispersion to specific natural habitats.
Biodiversity offsetting is contentious -- here's an alternative
A new approach to compensate for the impact of development may be an effective alternative to biodiversity offsetting -- and help nations achieve international biodiversity targets.
Biodiversity yields financial returns
Farmers could increase their revenues by increasing biodiversity on their land.
Biodiversity and wind energy
The location and operation of wind energy plants are often in direct conflict with the legal protection of endangered species.
More Biodiversity News and Biodiversity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.