25 May 2020


The global crises with devastation and loss of natural ecosystems in combination with climate change appear to play a role in how often viruses jump from animals to humans and become global pandemics, such as the current corona crisis. This is the argument put forward by, amongst others, doctors and biologists from the University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital in a new research review.

‘For viruses and microbes, humans are a resource. We are a stable biomass, the size of which is steadily increasing on planet earth. Today, humans and our livestock make up 96 percent of the global mammalian biomass, while the 5000 wild species make up just four percent. Therefore, it is becoming more and more attractive for viruses to evolve towards being able to live in humans. For that same reason, it is being discussed whether there is a selection pressure on viruses to adapt to us humans’, says professor Carsten Rahbek, leader of CMEC at GLOBE Institute and co-author of the paper in Danish Medical Journal.

‘It may sound like an exaggeration when we link climate change and loss of biodiversity and ecosystems with pandemics, such as COVID-19. However, when we humans directly or indirectly destroy animal habitats and when up to 70 percent of the natural ecosystems are affected, the animals may be forced to seek new habitats in order to survive and in that process increase their proximity to livestock and humans. This applies, for example, to bats that carry many viruses’.

Press release form Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen

COVID-19 is possibly a consequence of the anthropogenic biodiversity crisis and climate changes