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Valuing biodiversity services, including its insurance against disease

By diluting the pool of virus targets and hosts, biodiversity reduces their impact on humans and provides a form of global health insurance, biodiversity experts say.

At the same time, intrusion into the world's areas of high biodiversity disturbs these biological reservoirs and exposes people to new forms of infectious disease, according to Dr. Peter Daszak, one of 700 experts from 60 countries convening in Oaxaca, Mexico for a landmark conference dedicated to the convergence of all biodiversity-related sciences.

Identifying the value to people of biodiversity-related ecosystem services such as disease regulation, climate regulation, storm protection and habitat for useful species is the main theme of the First DIVERSITAS Open Science Conference, Nov. 9-12, co-hosted by the Mexican government. Some 450 presentations are scheduled in issue areas ranging from biology to conomics and international law, with emphasis on the positive benefits of conservation.

Biodiversity not only stores the promise of new medical treatments and cures, it buffers humans from organisms and agents that cause disease, according to Dr. Daszak, Executive Director of the Consortium for Conservation Medicine, at Wildlife Trust, New York, and member of the DIVERSITAS Scientific Steering Committee.

Growing human contact with wildlife through invasion of forest habitat and the use of wildlife for food and folk remedies is responsible for the emergence of a series of lethal human diseases that originated in animals, most famously SARS, HIV-AIDS and Ebola, he says, adding that preventing emerging diseases through biodiversity conservation is far more cost effective than developing vaccines to combat them later.

Part of a scientific team that recently connected Asian bats in China with the SARS virus, Dr. Daszak says it's important to draw lessons from that $50 billion global health crisis when looking ahead to the Asian
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Contact: Terry Collins
terrycollins@rogers.com
416-538-8712
Diversitas
25-Oct-2005


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