12 Jan 2022

Receives 1,5 million euro to study new problem species

GEDB Deputy Executive Director Peter Søgaard Jørgensen receives a European Research Council (ERC) starting grant. The grant consists of 1,5 million Euro over five years for studying the emergence of new problem species in agriculture and human health.

Jørgensen, also researcher at Stockholm Resilience Centre, is an expert on emerging pests and pathogens in social-ecological systems will also study how these new problem species  can be governed for positive outcomes for humans and the environment.

The ERC funding comes at a time when several changes combine to exacerbate the risks of new pests and pathogens to society:

  • Expanded human land use increases risks of contact between humans and wild animals, humans are more likely to be exposed to potentially dangerous pests and pathogens.
  • Denser human trade and travel networks means that organisms spread more easily spread to new parts of the world.
  • And reliance on human material technology, such as pesticides and antimicrobial drugs to control emerging pests and pathogens, may exacerbate risks of new problem variants of these species evolving to cause problems in the future.

There is currently no formal approach to study how the societal and environmental impacts of pests and pathogens cascade from their initial local emergence to their lasting imprints, a gap the project aims to fill.

“A better understanding of how new diseases and pests affect societies and their efforts to achieve sustainable development must be made an urgent priority”, Peter Jørgensen says.

Uncovering cascading dynamics

Jørgensen's research will fill an important gap in sustainability science, helping to develop much needed capacity to navigate a future where shocks from pests and pathogens are likely to be more common. As part of this work, he will assemble a large database of some 1600 emerging pests and pathogens.

The project will uncover the cascading dynamics of emerging pests and pathogens by studying the social-ecological dynamics associated with their initial emergence, attempts to govern them and their longer term social and environmental impacts.

This will allow the researchers to uncover the factors that determine how these organisms can cascade from small local shocks to ultimately alter the overall direction of societal development.

"I hope the insights from the project will help identify strategies for how new diseases and pests can be addressed with a holistic societal perspective that takes both impacts on social equity and environmental sustainability into account," Jørgensen says.

About the ERC

The European Research Council, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe.

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