Penny Becker, Regional Executive Director, Island Conservation

World Nature Conservation Day is celebrated every year on July 28. The date is a reminder of the value of conservation for people and wildlife alike. Nowhere is this connection more apparent than on islands, which are home to a wide array of animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth, and 10% of the global human population. Many island communities understand the essential role of nature and have seen first-hand the destruction of species, ecosystems, human livelihoods, and community wellbeing, and are taking steps to preserve biodiversity for today and into the future.

Islands are not always the pristine oasis we imagine; they often experience severe environmental destruction caused by introduced, invasive species—the primary cause of island extinctions, and a driver of our global extinction crisis. For decades, Island Conservation has focused on this intersection, removing invasive species from islands with remarkable results, bringing endangered wildlife back from the brink of extinction, reviving vegetation and habitat, and reclaiming vital resources for island communities.

On July 22, the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research in partnership with ISAAA’s SEAsia Center will host the fourth session of the Gene Drive Webinar Series. Register here!

Over 8 billion people could be at risk of malaria and dengue by 2080 if greenhouse emissions continue to rise and affect global temperatures. Scientists from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) predict that higher temperatures could lengthen transmission seasons by more than a month for malaria and four months for dengue in the next 50 years. Current disease control efforts such as mosquito reduction campaigns are effective but costly; hence not sustainable in low-income countries, says one of the authors of the study Felipe J Colón-González.

If you could not join the third panel of the Gene Drive Webinar Series, you can still watch the discussion here!

Experts from the University of Cape Town, Duke-NUS Medical School, Polo di Genomica, Genetica e Biologia and National Health Research Institutes (Taiwan) gathered on July 8 to discuss whether gene drive could become a potential tool to eradicate vector-borne diseases. On the occasion, panellists discussed novel tools to improve public health and the potential and limitations of gene drive mosquitoes.

Scientists believe that the next world pandemic could be “so much worse” than COVID-19. In a recent article by the Los Angeles Times, Omar Akbari, Associate Professor at the University of California San Diego, highlighted that we could expect as many as 400 million fatalities if a new pandemic were to be transmitted by mosquitoes.

The danger mosquitoes pose is significant. The Aedes aegypti species, for example, is the vector for several viruses, including those responsible for Zika, dengue and chikungunya. Due to climate change, the species is spreading in the US and could, in the future, transmit other pathogens. Current tools are not enough to control vector-borne diseases and innovation and research are paramount, says Akbari, a supporter of gene-editing technologies for vector control.