August 25, 2023
Healthy ecosystems feature abundant biodiversity and host an intricate network of interactions between organisms and their environment. Humanity is intertwined with our ecosystems; we rely on them for food production, fibre and medicine provision, supporting human livelihoods and our overall well being. This interconnectedness and interdependence of human, animal and ecosystem health is the basis of the One Health concept.
Embracing a One Health mindset is crucial for effectively addressing today’s global challenges and achieving sustainable development. Emerging infectious diseases, such as Ebola, Zika and COVID-19, demonstrate the potential consequences of disrupting these environments. These diseases originated from wildlife before being transmitted to and subsequently afflicting humans. Preserving biodiversity and the health of these habitats is essential to minimize the risk of zoonotic diseases and safeguard public health.
Biodiversity loss threatens ecosystem stability, diminishes resilience to climate change, reduces the capacity to provide the services we rely on and has significant economic implications. Industries such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism rely on robust ecological systems.
The One Health approach recognizes the need for interdisciplinary collaboration. By integrating knowledge and expertise from various disciplines, such as medicine, veterinary science, ecology and social sciences, One Health seeks to address complex health challenges more effectively. This holistic approach promotes preventive measures, surveillance systems and collaborative research to identify and mitigate emerging health threats. Conservation efforts and sustainable practices are paramount to preserving biodiversity and implementing the One Health approach. Sustainable land and resource management practices reduce negative impacts on biodiversity and maintain the integrity of ecosystems while protected areas, such as national parks and nature reserves, safeguard biodiversity by providing habitats for numerous species.
Education and awareness also play a vital role in promoting biodiversity conservation and the One Health approach. Educational campaigns can raise awareness about the consequences of biodiversity loss and the interconnectedness of human, animal and environmental health, inspiring action at various levels. By fostering a sense of stewardship and understanding the value of biodiversity, individuals and communities can contribute to the protection and restoration of ecosystems.
In Canada, recognizing the importance of biodiversity and implementing the One Health approach necessitates braiding Indigenous and western perspectives. Indigenous Peoples possess unique knowledge systems and attitudes rooted in their cultural backgrounds and experiences. Their connection with the land and emphasis on interconnectedness offers valuable insights into biodiversity conservation and environmental stewardship. Western perspectives, grounded in scientific and ecological frameworks, contribute technical knowledge about ecosystems and species.
Reconciling these perspectives requires respecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights, governance systems, land stewardship practices and inclusive decision-making processes that value diverse perspectives.
Canada has a unique opportunity to take the lead in biodiversity genomics research, education, and social advocacy. Initiatives such as the Canadian BioGenome Project, iTrackDNA and BIOSCAN-Canada are already making significant contributions. Establishing a biodiversity genomics hub that provides coordinated domestic and global leadership offers numerous advantages for Canada in its efforts to protect global biodiversity and move towards climate and biodiversity targets more swiftly. Through collaborative efforts, scientific advancements and the integration of diverse knowledge systems, Canada can lead the way in preserving our planet’s precious biodiversity for future generations.
Biodiversity is vital because it helps keep ecosystems stable, provides important resources, and helps nature adapt to changes in the environment. The One Health approach can help us preserve biodiversity, safeguard public health, protect the economy and ensure the well-being of present and future generations. Genome BC, in partnership with stakeholders across the nation, aims to conserve Canada’s biodiversity and create a harmonious coexistence between humans, animals and the environment.
This article appears in Genome BC’s 2022/23 Annual Report. View the whole report here.