Editor Jun 2, 2021 9:00:00 AM 5 min read

Deforestation contributes to disease outbreaks, study says

It has now been more than a year and the world hasn’t completely recovered from the coronavirus pandemic. However it isn't just the Covid-19 disease, the world is also witnessing several other new diseases emerging with great momentum. Swine Flu, Ebola, Zika virus, MERS, SARS all these infectious diseases have started emerging in the recent days. One long-standing belief is that most of these disease outbreaks are intricately related to biodiversity especially the ones related to plants.

Clearing of forests mostly results in threatening loss of habitat of different species making mankind more and more exposed to several pathogens. Moreover, these pathogens are often new to us. In accordance to a newspaper, land-use change is a significant cause in the overall emergence of zoonotic viruses such as the coronavirus and other vector-borne ailments like cholera and malaria. 

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Research Findings Demonstrating Deforestation As The Key Cause Of Disease Outbreak

Further bolstering into this research field, a completely new study proves that the outbreak of these modern-day infectious diseases occurs mostly in those areas where deforestation has taken place. The study further informs that all types of monoculture plantations are most likely to increase disease outbreaks.

Monoculture plantation generally means planting huge numbers of trees of a particular type. For instance coconut tree plantation over huge swathes of land- this is a model of both industrial and commercial plantation. It further indicates that forest diversity is especially needed in order to keep such diseases under control. 

Another significant study suggests that change in land use is a major cause of the emergence of infectious diseases like the SARS-CoV2. The main reason behind deforestation causing more disease outbreaks is because viruses and bacteria’s are blocked and filtered by several species of plants and animals inhabiting intense and biodiverse forests.

When these ecosystems are disturbed by taking down plants and trees and replaced by one specific variety of plant, many animal species gets wiped out and species such as mosquitoes and rats thrive. These types of species like rats, mosquitoes etc. are then known to spread pathogens across both non-human and human habitats. The result of which becomes the loss of natural regulation of disease outbreaks.

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Concentrating Risk

A study conducted for more than a hundred years between 1900 and 2016, showed a total of 116 types of zoonotic diseases and 3884 types of other disease outbreaks that jumped from one species to other. Moreover, there were another 1996 vector-borne diseases carried by ticks, mosquitoes, and flies. Researches also studied the overall trends of the plantation, forest covers, diseases, human population, and the correlation between them.

The study resulted in a steep increase in virus outbreaks especially when a plantation of a specific type of tree is increased and the forest density is decreased. Latin American countries like Brazil are very much prone to malaria outbreaks. Similarly, in different parts of South East Asia, clearance of forest has led to a favourable breeding ground for mosquitoes acting as a vector for different diseases. Also in parts of Africa, the loss of forest has also been linked to the emergence of the Ebola virus. 

Currently, every single person in the field of planetary health is worried about what is actually happening to the climate, biodiversity, and public health. We, humans, are on the verge of nearing the tipping point of climate change, and this isn’t actually good for the world ecosystem. In case we reach the tipping point, the result can be really bad especially in terms of diseases, fire outbreaks, and droughts.

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