Disturbing Natural Habitats Increases Risk of Wildlife Diseases Like the Novel Coronavirus

Via Flickr

Nicole Welle | August 6, 2020

A new study found that animals known to carry harmful diseases are more common in landscapes that have been converted into urban or agricultural areas.

Zoonotic diseases are caused by germs that pass between humans and animals. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they account for about 75 percent of new or emerging diseases in people. While the destruction of natural habitats can lead top a sharp decline in some animal species, many of the animals that carry zoonotic pathogens multiply and thrive in human-dominated environments.

The study found that the proportion of animals that host pathogens harmful to humans is anywhere from 21 to 144 percent higher in human-disturbed areas than in non-disturbed habitats, according to an EHN article. Pathogen-carrying rodents, bats and certain birds tend to have traits, like high reproductive rates and reduced immune systems, that allow them to thrive in human-dominated environments. Larger species that rely on non-disturbed habitats, however, are more likely to be negatively impacted by human activity.

“As agricultural and urban lands are predicted to continue expanding in the coming decades, we should be strengthening disease surveillance and healthcare provision in those areas that are undergoing a lot of land disturbance, as they are increasingly likely to have animals that could be hosting harmful pathogens,” said Kate Jones, a senior author and professor at the UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research and ZSL Institute of Zoology, in a statement to Environmental Health News.

One thought on “Disturbing Natural Habitats Increases Risk of Wildlife Diseases Like the Novel Coronavirus

  1. Seems like it’s time to start slowing down or even stopping expansion of urban and agricultural areas. Converting from huge agri-business corn and soybean fields to smaller, more diverse farms growing food crops would be an important first step. Some sort of control on the rapid urban expansion we are experience would also be nice.

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