A new EU-funded project BEPREP aims to prevent future pandemics by studying and identifying best practices for biodiversity recovery and public health interventions that mitigate disease risk.
Epidemics and pandemics – most of them caused by zoonotic and vector-borne emerging diseases – are globally threatening our health and welfare at an alarming pace. Prevention of future disease outbreaks will be pivotal to secure human welfare. “Biodiversity-is-good-for-our-health” has become a new paradigm in disease risk mitigation. Consequently, nature restoration targeting biodiversity recovery – isolated or in combination with public health interventions – has been identified as a major disease risk mitigation tool.
“While there are thousands of ongoing and planned nature restoration projects globally, there is uncertainty if such restorations indeed mitigate disease risk or if they rather amplify the risk and so far, there are no identified success factors characterizing restorations that mitigate disease risk” says Professor Frauke Ecke, coordinator of the project from University of Helsinki.
The BEPREP (Identification of best practices for biodiversity recovery and public health interventions to prevent future epidemics and pandemics) project will fill this lack in knowledge and provide practical guidance. In spatially and temporally replicated field studies and experiments in 11 case studies in Europe and the tropics, the project aims to reveal the causal mechanisms of infection dynamics and how to interrupt infection pathways.
“In the project, we will apply a participatory and multi-actor approach by actively involving indigenous and local communities, which will enable us to identify success factors of best practice restorations and interventions,” emphasises Ecke.
Nature-based solutions including reintroduction of ecosystem engineers, such as beavers, and small-sized predators, such as owls and raptors are a key feature of the project, which will guide future biodiversity recovery measures that promote healthy ecosystems and that prevent disease outbreaks.
The 8 M€ Horizon Europe project is coordinated by University of Helsinki, involves 14 partners from Finland, Sweden, France, The Netherlands, UK, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Columbia, Brazil and Tanzania and will last for 4,5 years.