Our project aims at elucidating the relationship between biodiversity and diseases by integrating recently emphasized key research directions: the influence of temporal dynamics, and the simultaneous consideration of host, microbiome and multiple pathogen diversity levels. We will focus on dynamics of rodent-borne diseases in European temperate forests and urban green spaces. Rodents have long been recognized as important reservoirs of zoonotic agents; forests and green spaces are environments where rodents are abundant, human/domestic-wildlife interactions are plausible to occur, and efforts are undertaken to preserve biodiversity. Using small mammal sampling and large pathogen and microbiome community investigation, we will establish an up-to-date, open, comprehensive database of rodent-borne pathogens circulating in western-central European countries. Ecoepidemiological approaches will enhance our understanding of microbial interactions and the processes that influence pathogen transmission in rodent populations. Besides, we will develop mathematical models based on our data to analyse the influence of spatiotemporal scales as well as pathogen/microbiome interactions on the relationships between biodiversity and diseases. We will forecast, through cutting-edge mathematical modelling, what could be the impact of biological conservation strategies on epidemiological patterns of zoonotic pathogens outbreaks. Throughout the project, sociologists will be at the core of partners interactions to help them establishing transdisciplinary collaborations with relevant stakeholders and designing effective knowledge exchanges with these latter. Overall, this project will provide proof-of-concept that joint strategies between public health and conservation biology programs can help to prevent emergence of zoonotic pathogens. Resulting data will be discussed with stakeholders to improve disease prevention policies by working on biodiversity management strategies as well as surveillance, training and awareness campaigns with active participation of all stakeholders.

This project is funded by the EU-Biodiversa programs and runs 2020-2022.

It is carried out by a consortium led by Nathalie Charbonnel (INRA, Montpellier, France) with other partners from IRD (Montpellier, France), Irstea (Grenoble, France), University of Potsdam (Germany), Trinity College Dublin (Ireland) , Medical University of Gdansk (Poland) and Antwerp.

For more information contact Herwig Leirs