Component EcoHealth

Within the transfaculty focus ‘Adaptation of Biological Systems’ the component EcoHealth covers the interactions of organisms within an ecosystem and the effects on the partners involved as well as those on the entire environment. In the face of global changes of climate, natural habitats and biodiversity, it is essential to understand the relations between the ecology of natural systems, health and the sustainability of natural resources, as well as the effects of disturbances of the underlying adaptive processes. Focal points are anthropogenic changes of biodiversity and their various effects on ecosystem services, in particular also on the health of wild animals, plants and humans.

Habitat destruction and land use changes increase the contact probabilities between populations of wildlife, livestock and humans, and thus favor the emergence and spread of so-called emerging diseases (e.g., SARS, Hanta, MERS, ZIKA). Anthropogenic habitat and climate changes, environmental chemicals and invasive species affect also the species diversity of native plants, animals and microorganisms and their respective functions within the ecosystem or within the host. Thus, many ecosystem services as well as the dependent branches of the economy are adversely affected. Research into the underlying abiotic and biotic interactions allows the identification of critical ecosystem processes and the development of sustainable strategies to maintaining health, protection and use of biological resources.

The component EcoHealth integrates genetic and organismic approaches to biodiversity research in temperate and tropical habitats and is closely linked to medical research topics, e.g., the spread of viral infectious diseases or the importance of commensal and pathogenic intestinal bacteria for the health of the human host. It thus contributes in the sense of an ,One Health' approach to develop effective intervention mechanisms and an efficient health policy that recognizes the systemic relations between the environment, animals, humans and their health.