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Scientific strategy

© shutterstock Marketa Mark

There is a growing understanding of the way anthropological environmental changes (e.g. land use change, wildlife trade, deforestation, climate change, human migrations) affect the health of wild and domestic animals (Daszak et al. 2000), plants (Anderson and Morales 1994), and humans (Bouma and Dye 1997). Studies that address how these drivers change disease prevalence and impact on humans, or wildlife are underway (Allan et al. 2003). Those changes will not only affect human health - they will also have an important economic cost as we search and implement measures to fight diseases, lose productivity, shift working conditions, etc. Politically, infectious diseases are rising in importance on three fronts:

  1. Concerns in developed countries about the potential emergence of pandemic flu and other diseases;
  2. Concerns about the disparity in health between developed and developing countries; and
  3. Increased interest in the role of anthropogenic environmental changes and demography in driving disease emergence.

The main goal of the DIVERSITAS ecoHEALTH project is to address these issues focusing on the study of the relationships between plant and animal biodiversity and the emergence or re-emergence of infectious diseases, and the consequences for wild biodiversity and human societies.

ecoHEALTH aims at providing 1) a fora to bring scientists from natural, social and medical sciences together to address the issues mentioned above; 2) a conceptual framework to carry out research on these topics; 3) accurate information to decision-makers.

The research challenges that ecoHEALTH explores in the field of biodiversity and emerging infectious diseases are as follow:

  • Monitoring infectious diseases' dynamic related parameters and establishment of surveillance systems taking into account pathogen agents' diversity and dynamics, wildlife and livestock diversity, environmental factors;
  • Role of biodiversity in providing new zoonotic disease agents that affect human health with an emphasis on anthropological environmental change drivers and evolutionary processes. Similarities with exotic species invasions will also be explored;
  • Direct impact of anthropogenic environmental changes, including biodiversity changes, on infectious diseases' ecology and emergence;
  • Economic impact of disease emergence and consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem services valuation;
  • Relationships between biodiversity conservation and public health.
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