A UN summit on biodiversity is scheduled for next month in New York City, where conservationists and biologists will discuss a strong link between deforestation and the emergence of novel diseases such as Covid-19, according to The Guardian.
Land-use change, the process where humans transform natural land, is linked to 31% of emerging infectious diseases including HIV, Ebola, and Zika virus, according to Iowa Environmental Focus.
Proportions of animals that host pathogens that are detrimental to human health is anywhere from 21-144% higher in human-disturbed areas than non-disturbed habitats, according to Iowa Environmental Focus.
“It is estimated that tens of millions of hectares of rainforest and other wild environments are being bulldozed every year to cultivate palm trees, farm cattle, extract oil and provide access to mines and mineral deposits,” The Guardian said.
Land use change is also increasing the prevalence of lyme disease. As urban developments sprawl out into previously forested land, humans live in closer quarters with the lyme disease vectors.
Early symptoms of lyme disease include fever, chills, and a “bulls eye” rash around the tick bite. If the disease is caught early enough, it can be treated with antibiotics. However, as many as 30 percent of people do not develop the bulls eye rash and often mistake the other symptoms for another illness. If left untreated, lyme disease can cause heart palpitations, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and facial palsy, among other symptoms.
The Center for Disease Control is working to educate health care professionals about how to recognize lyme disease in patients and the most effective treatments for it. Scientists from Bard College and Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies have also enrolled 1,000 households in Duchess County, New York in a study testing some new deer tick control methods. The five year study is using bait boxes that apply a small amount of fipronil (found in products like Frontline) to tick-carrying mammals like squirrels and chipmunks and a fungal spray that kills ticks to determine whether the methods are effective in keeping tick populations down.
Tick-borne illnesses are the most likely harmful human health effect for Iowans as a result of climate change according to the Medical Society Consortium.
Biodiversity, or the overall variety of life forms on Earth, is decreasing substantially in every region of the world due to land use change and climate change.
A compilation of four new United Nations scientific studies, which were recently approved by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), details the loss. Over three years, researchers assessed biodiversity and ecosystem services in the Americas, Asia, the Pacific, Africa and Europe. They found that biodiversity and nature’s ability to provide for humans’ basic needs has declined in every region due to habitat loss overexploitation and unsustainable use of natural resources, pollution, increasing numbers of invasive species and climate change.
In the Americas, the studies found that species richness is about thirty percent less than it was when Europeans first arrived on the continent, and the rate of biodiversity loss in that region seems to be speeding up. They report that under “business as usual” circumstances, 40 percent of the region’s biodiversity will be lost by 2050. While land use and population growth plays a larger role in other regions of the world, climate change is the primary driver behind species loss in the Americas. Given that the natural world provides an estimated $24 trillion per year in ecosystem services to humans in the Americas alone, biodiversity loss is not a concern reserved only for environmentalists.
Protection of key biodiversity areas in the Americas increased by 17 percent between 1970 and 2010. However, the authors point out that these efforts fall short as less than 20 percent of crucial biodiversity areas in the Americas are currently protected.
Sir Robert Watson is the chair of IPBES, he said,
“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people sound, to many people, academic and far removed from our daily lives. Nothing could be further from the truth – they are the bedrock of our food, clean water and energy. They are at the heart not only of our survival, but of our cultures, identities and enjoyment of life. The best available evidence, gathered by the world’s leading experts, points us now to a single conclusion: we must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature – or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead. Fortunately, the evidence also shows that we know how to protect and partially restore our vital natural assets.”
To read more about the types of biodiversity loss in other areas of the world, click here.