In the last few days, I thought a lot about how to go on with my blog. Believe it or not, I have drafts of 3 different posts and all 3 are not about COVID-19! At first, I was determined to keep on writing my blog because the biodiversity crisis is still ongoing even if we are all understandably preoccupied with the current Corona situation. But every time I sat down and started writing, I was distracted after a short while and couldn't get myself to focus anymore. I figured if I couldn't get myself to focus long enough to write a blog post, how can I expect others to read it?
So, I temporarily gave up on writing, even though I have plenty of time right now. Yesterday, I saw a post from United Nations (UN) Biodiversity which wrote about a connection between habitat loss and the outbreaks of pandemics. It immediately sparked my interest. Until I read this post, I held only globalization, the frequent traveling of humans, and the transportation of goods all over the world responsible for the outbreaks of pandemics.
Then I started researching on this subject. And this time I couldn't stop reading. ;)
According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), there is plenty of evidence that climate change and the loss of habitat is connected to the outbreaks and spreading of diseases. How does this work?
Most of us probably heard of the connection between extreme weather events, especially excessive rainfalls, and the spreading of diseases like Malaria or diarrhoea. Additionally, because of the rising average temperatures in the northern hemisphere, it is more likely for mosquitoes, who are transmitting malaria, to spread in the temperate zones as well. Even small temperature changes can accelerate the transmission of diseases.
Another aspect is the loss of habitats. COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease - which means it is transmitted between animals and humans. In the case of COVID-19, it was most likely a bat and is traced back to a wildlife marked in China. Consequently, the Chinese government has suspended all wildlife trade. That is great news for the conservation of biodiversity. Let's hope this will be a permanent ban.
Apparently, there is also a link between deforestation and the spreading of diseases, like Ebola, Zika, and Nipah viruses. Because of habitat loss, wild animals are forced to leave their natural environment and live closer to human populations, which increases the risk of zoonotic diseases.
Another reason why biodiversity is crucial for overcoming diseases is the use of plants for medicine. Plant-based substances are not only used in traditional medicine but in the modern pharma industry as well. A study by the IUCN (International Union of Conversation of Nature) says that about 17%, (or 72.000) of all species of higher plants are used worldwide for medicine. The variety of different plant species increases the chance of finding a cure for various current and future diseases.
In the end, the COVID-19 pandemic has given us yet another reason to increase our efforts to save biodiversity and take a hard look at how we treat nature in general. To reduce the risks of future pandemics and to ensure we have enough basis for medicine.
The measures against Corona, as restricting as they are for us, do have a positive side as well. Especially for nature! There are reports of dolphin sightings in the habours of Italy and crystal-clear water in the channels of Venice. Satellite pictures show an immense reduction of NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) emissions in the atmosphere above China and recently, in Europ as well. Of course, this is only a short break for nature, but it may give us a glimpse of what the world could look like if we would limit ourselves just a little bit and how much we could gain in return.
We need a healthy ecosystem to reduce the risk of pandemics and to overcome them. We have seen now, what a great impact a pandemic can have on our economic system and on our daily lives and this is just one way a failing ecosystem can affect us. Finally, I really hope that human society will learn from the Corona-Crisis and not just go back to the way things were before.
On that note, I hope you were able to focus long enough to reach the end of this post. :) I hope you all stay safe and stay at home!