Diversity of wildlife is good for human health

Biodiversity loss increases exposure to new and established pathogens

Biodiversity of wild animals is good for human health, found NSF-funded scientists.

Growing evidence suggests that loss of biodiversity increases exposure to both new and established zoonotic pathogens. Restoring and protecting nature is essential to prevent future pandemics.

So reports a new Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences article that synthesizes a current understanding of how biodiversity affects human health and gives recommendations for future research to guide management. The research is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Lead author Felicia Keesing of Bard College and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies says, “There is a persistent myth that wild areas with high levels of biodiversity are hot spots for disease. More diversity of animals must match more dangerous pathogens. But that shows “Biodiversity is not a threat to us; it actually protects us from the most unhealthy species.”

Zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome and Ebola are caused by pathogens that are shared between humans and other vertebrates. But animal species differ in their ability to pass on pathogens that make people sick.

Rick Ostfeld is a sick environmentalist at the Cary Institute and co-author of the newspaper. He says, “Research is growing that species thriving in developed and degraded landscapes are often much more effective at containing pathogens and transmitting them to humans. In less disturbed landscapes with more animal diversity, these risky water reservoirs are less abundant, and biodiversity has protection. effect. “

Rodents, bats, primates, split hoofed mammals such as sheep and deer, and carnivores have been marked as the mammals most likely to transmit pathogens to humans. But the next emerging pathogen is much more likely to come from a rat than a rhino, the scientists say.

Animals with short lives tend to transmit pathogens more efficiently. “Animals that live quickly, die young, and have early sexual maturation with many pups tend to invest less in their adaptive immune responses,” says Keesing. “They often transmit diseases better, compared to longer-lived animals with stronger adaptive immunity.”

When biodiversity is lost from ecological communities, long-lived, more corporeal species tend to disappear first, while smaller bodily species with shorter lives tend to multiply.

Human development tends to increase the abundance of zonal host species, bringing humans and endangered animals closer together, the researchers say.

Adds Diana Pilson, program director in NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology, “This important review explains the conditions under which zoonotic spills most often occur. The work will allow a better focus on the species groups and environmental conditions that are likely to be sources of new zonal diseases. “

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