Diversity in nature needed to decrease risk of future pandemics

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LACK of diversity on nature is a risk for future global pandemics a chief executive of a nature agency has warned.

Chief Executive of NatureScot Francesca Osowka has said more space for nature is needed for resilience for future pandemics.

Ms Osowka will deliver a key note address today at the SAGES 2020 online conference.

Francesca Osowska - Nature News Scotland
(©Lorne Gill/SNH.) Francesca Osowka, Chief Executive and Accountable Officer, Scottish Natural Heritage

Globally, wildlife is compressed into smaller and more fragmented areas to make way for farming and forestry.

Ms Osowka said: “Experts have concluded that the same issues which cause biodiversity loss and climate change also increase the risk of pandemics.

“Enhancing diversity and making space for nature is key to reducing the risk of further pandemics.”

The recent outbreak of  COVID-19 transferring from people to mink and back again in Denmark has caused concern for wildlife diversity.

Covid-19 spread rapidly in the high-density farmed mink population with the potential for rapid mutations.

Ms Osowka added: “The increasing intensity of livestock farming, deforestation, crop monocultures, globalisation and large urban environments all make viral transference more likely and rapid once viruses enter human populations.”

“The same actions are essential in tackling the climate emergency. Ecosystem restoration at sea, along with peatland and woodland locks in carbon.

“A ‘Green Recovery’ from COVID-19 is an exceptional – and necessary – opportunity to transition to a net zero and nature-rich global economy.

“Through these actions the viruses, pests and diseases that are a natural part of life on Earth are also more likely to remain where they belong: in their wild host populations, rather than cause problems for humankind.”