Study shows link between deforestation and infectious diseases

Updated March 24, 2021, 11:44 a.m.

  • A study has shown that there is a connection between cleared or reforested forests and infectious diseases.
  • It is similar with palm oil plantations.

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French researchers have found a clear statistical link between deforestation of forests and outbreaks of infectious diseases transmitted by animals.

The situation was similar with palm oil plantations: the larger their area, the more frequently infectious diseases occurred. Another result of the study, which has now been published in the journal “Frontiers in Veterinary Science”, is that afforestation also leads to more cases of such diseases.

Loss of biodiversity

“We do not yet know the exact ecological mechanisms, but we assume that plantations, like oil palms, develop at the expense of natural forest areas and that reforestation consists mainly of monocultural forests that are created at the expense of grasslands,” quoted Serge Morand magazine from National Center for Scientific Research in Paris in a communication.

Both changes in land use went hand in hand with the loss of biodiversity, and the simplified habitats favored animal reservoirs for pathogens and pathogens.

Several thousand outbreaks recorded

Morand and his colleague Claire Lajaunie from the National Institute for Health and Medical Research looked at global developments from 1990 to 2016. They used data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank for their analyzes.

Another database for infectious diseases recorded several thousand outbreaks during this period in which the pathogen is transmitted directly from its animal host to humans or, for example, from the main host to humans through insects. An example of the second category is the Anopheles mosquito as a carrier of malaria.

Strong link between deforestation and epidemics

The scientists related the occurrence of such diseases in a country to the forest cover of the country, the area of ​​its palm oil plantations and demographic data. They found a strong connection between deforestation and epidemics with malaria and Ebola in tropical countries such as Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Indonesia, Myanmar and Malaysia.

In contrast, temperate regions such as the USA, China and Europe showed clear links between afforestation and diseases such as tick-borne Lyme disease.

Certain areas seem prone to disease

According to the information, it was surprising for the researchers that they found the connection between oil palms and outbreaks in China and Thailand, where deforestation is low. However, these areas appear to be prone to mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, zika and yellow fever.

Morand said, according to the announcement, “We hope these results will help policymakers recognize that forests contribute to a healthy planet and healthy people, and that decision-making bodies must prevent the afforestation and agricultural conversion of grasslands.” (ff / dpa)

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