Desertification Confab Chair Links Land Degradation to Virus Risk

JOSHUA ROBBIN MARKS 11/16/2020 – https://themedialine.org/people/desertification-confab-chair-links-land-degradation-to-virus-risk/

Israeli university’s virtual gathering draws record registration

Viruses are more likely to jump to people from animals as more and more of their natural habitats are destroyed, according to the Israeli host of the seventh Drylands, Deserts and Desertification conference, which began on Monday.

The connection between disease and desertification is on the agenda, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) Prof. Shimon Rachmilevitch, the conference chairperson, told The Media Line.

“We know that desertification and degradation of land impact natural ecosystems. And if they are degraded, all kinds of animals leave their natural habitats and move to places with more humans, leading to humans being exposed to new and different organisms such as COVID-19,” Rachmilevitch said.

We know that desertification and degradation of land impact natural ecosystems. And if they are degraded, all kinds of animals leave their natural habitats and move to places with more humans, leading to humans being exposed to new and different organisms such as COVID-19

Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, kicked off the conference with a pre-recorded message on this year’s topic: “Feeding the Drylands: Challenges in a Changing Environment.” The COVID-19 crisis, he stated, is an opportunity to return to a new normal that doesn’t exploit natural resources and drive further land degradation.

The conference, which has a record number of participants, is being held virtually this year because of the pandemic. So far, BGU’s Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research has organized all seven conferences on desertification.

The event, which runs from Monday until Wednesday, is sponsored by the American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and is affiliated with the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

Nearly 2,000 people registered from about 103 countries, including Israel’s archenemy, Iran. The more than 160 speakers include representatives from Israel’s new ally, the United Arab Emirates, Rachmilevitch said.

According to the UN, drylands comprise more than 40% of the world’s land – and that figure is growing every year.

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See also : https://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israeli-conference-on-contending-with-desertification-attended-by-uae-iran/2020/11/16/

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.