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BIODIVERSITY LOSS AND DISEASE OUTBREAKS



  May 22, 2024

BIODIVERSITY LOSS AND DISEASE OUTBREAKS



INTRODUCTION

Human-caused environmental changes, such as biodiversity loss, climate change, habitat change, and pollution, are significantly increasing the risk and severity of disease outbreaks. This conclusion is based on a large-scale analysis of nearly 1,000 scientific studies, highlighting the close relationship between human activity and public health.

KEY FINDINGS

1. Biodiversity Crisis:

   - The loss of biodiversity, with around one million plant and animal species at risk of extinction, is a major driver of disease spread. 

   - Disease and mortality rates are nearly nine times higher in areas where human activity has reduced biodiversity.


2. Global Change Drivers:

   - The analysis focused on five main drivers: biodiversity change, climate change, habitat change or loss, chemical pollution, and the introduction of non-native species.

   - Four of these drivers—climate change, chemical pollution, introduction of non-native species, and biodiversity loss—increase the likelihood of disease outbreaks.

DILUTION EFFECT

- The "dilution effect" suggests that pathogens evolve to thrive in the most common species. As rarer species disappear, the remaining species, which are highly competent at transmitting diseases, become more prevalent.

- Example: White-footed mice, main carriers of Lyme disease, have become dominant as other species disappear, potentially contributing to rising Lyme disease rates in the US.

IMPACTS OF HABITAT LOSS

- While habitat loss generally decreases disease likelihood in urban areas due to better sanitation and less wildlife, deforestation increases the risk of diseases like malaria and Ebola.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND PATHOGEN SPREAD

- Climate change-induced permafrost melt may release ancient pathogens, increasing disease risks.

- Habitat loss and climate change can force animals closer to humans, facilitating disease transmission.

PUBLIC HEALTH IMPLICATIONS

- The research emphasizes the need for public health systems to prepare for the increasing impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss on disease spread.

CONCLUSION

Human-caused environmental changes are creating conditions that favor the spread of diseases, posing significant risks to public health. Effective management of biodiversity and environmental conservation is crucial to mitigate these risks and protect both human and ecological health.



SRIRAM’s


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