Biodiversity and health Holistic approaches to the health of humans, animals and the environment

Spectacled flying foxes, parent pair with kitten
Spectacled flying foxes, parent pair with kitten

Human health depends on diverse, vital ecosystems and their services. To be, become or stay healthy, we need clean air, safe water, nutritious food, fertile soils, protection from extreme weather, and medicinal drugs.

The increasing loss of biological diversity poses a particular challenge to vulnerable population groups who depend directly on the availability of natural resources.

Biodiversity conservation as pandemic prevention

The destruction of natural areas results in a loss of biodiversity and – because of the lack of places where animals can take refuge – leads to increased contact between humans and wild animals. This increases the risk of infectious agents being passed from animals to humans. These zoonoses (diseases of animal origin) are a major risk to public health, with potentially far-reaching economic, social and environmental consequences. They account for some 75 per cent of new infectious diseases – including AIDS and Covid-19, both of which are now widespread.

Biological diversity is crucial not only to the prevention of diseases and pandemics but also to our efforts to tackle them: numerous pharmacological agents and diagnostic aids are based on substances and processes that occur in nature. Biological resources provide the starting point for the majority of modern pharmaceuticals.

German activities

The German government is responding to the growing threat of pandemics with a range of initiatives and projects that promote holistic approaches to the health of humans, animals and the environment. For example, as part of this “One Health” approach the Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) and the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUV), working with international partners, have founded the International Alliance against Health Risks in Wildlife Trade.

Similarly, in the global Partnership against Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade in Africa and Asia, the BMZ and BMUV are pursuing an innovative, multi-issue and intercontinental approach along the entire illegal wildlife product trade chain – from the countries of origin and transit in Africa and Asia to the consumer countries in Asia.

The BMZ is providing 150 million euros for measures in connection with “One Health”. They complement existing German activities at the interface of biodiversity and health which focus in particular on the management of protected areas and the regulated trade in wildlife and wildlife products.