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Critical link between the environment and pandemics – Eurasia Review

Ecosystem restoration can aid COVID-19 recovery if tightly integrated with socio-economic, health and environmental policies, say scientists in a new paper from The Planetary Health of the Lancet.

Repairing ecosystems as a basic public health intervention can reduce the risk of infection and play a vital role in the long-term rehabilitation of COVID-19, which has so far claimed up to 15 million lives. deaths worldwide from direct and indirect infection (World Health Organization, 2020-21).

“Make no mistake. The loss of functioning and resilient ecosystems around the world is linked to the global pandemic and to the fundamentals of health and socio-economic recovery,” says lead researcher, University Ecologist Flinders, Dr. Martin Breed “Long-term health effects and economic recovery remain major concerns.”

Without effective, large-scale restoration efforts, up to 95% of land on Earth will be degraded by 2050.

The 2020s have been declared the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration to reflect the growing urgency and scale required to save ecosystems and landscapes.

First author, Flinders University scholar and ecologist Dr Jake Robinson says the new Lancet paper shows how ecosystem restoration has rarely been seen as an integral part of the global response to COVID-19, even though the pandemic has revealed socio-economic disparities and weaknesses in health systems. worldwide.

“The next decade will be crucial for humanity’s recovery from the pandemic and for the repair of ecosystems,” says Dr Robinson, currently based in the UK.

“Urgent political action is needed at all levels – from local government to intergovernmental platforms – to transform social, economic and financial models towards a simultaneous healthy recovery of ecosystems and humanity.”

Researchers from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States raise the following points:

  • First and foremost, engaging with nature benefits both physical and mental health. It promotes physical activity, social engagement, psychological and emotional benefits, and boosts our biology, including the metabolic and immune systems via our gut microbiota and other physiological systems.
  • Community-led action can encompass repairing urban nature to working on biodiversity-positive projects and involving people in sustainability initiatives and conservation work.
  • Ecosystem restoration programs provide vital employment opportunities, especially in marginalized communities where environmental and health conditions are generally worse.
  • Healthcare professionals can promote nature-based activities to create health benefits, including recovery from prolonged symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Exposure to healthy ecosystems may facilitate the transfer of immunoregulatory microbiota to people, which could improve resilience to diseases like COVID-19 and improve lung function by reducing long-term air pollution exposure. .
  • Restored habitats can provide protection against future interbreeding with zoonotic pathogens and reduce the likelihood of future spread of disease from animals to humans and potential pandemics.