Outbreaks of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases Are Associated With Changes in Forest Cover and Oil Palm Expansion at Global Scale
17 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2020
Date Written: September 25, 2020
Deforestation is a major cause of biodiversity loss with a negative impact of deforestation on human health. This study explores at global scale whether the loss and gain of forest cover and the rise of oil palm plantations can promote outbreaks of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases. We examine the global trends between changes in forest cover in recent decades and epidemics of infectious diseases. We find that the increases in outbreaks of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases from 1990 to 2016 are linked with deforestation, mostly in tropical countries, and with reforestation, mostly in temperate countries. We also find that outbreaks are associated with the increase in areas of palm oil plantations. Our study gives new support for a link between global deforestation and outbreaks of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases but evidences that reforestation and plantations may also contribute to epidemics of infectious diseases. The results are discussed in light of the importance of forests for biodiversity, livelihoods and human health and the need to urgently build an international governance framework to ensure the preservation of forests and the ecosystem services they provide, including the regulation of diseases. We develop recommendations to scientists, public health officers and policymakers who should reconcile the need to preserve biodiversity while taking into account the health risks posed by lack or mismanagement of forests.
Significance Statement: While deforestation is a major cause of biodiversity loss, few studies have investigated globally the impact of deforestation and land conversion to commercial plantations on human health. Our study gives new support for a link between global outbreaks of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases and either global deforestation or reforestation and commercial plantations. We conclude that is time to build an international governance framework to ensure the preservation of forests and the ecosystem services they provide, including the regulation of disease transmission.
Note: Funding Statement: This work was part of the FutureHealthSEA ³Predictive scenarios of health in Southeast Asia´ project funded by the French ANR (ANR-17-CE35-0003-01). S.M. is supported by the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA) ³Animal Innovative Health´. Declaration of Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Keywords: infectious diseases, deforestation, oil palm, public health, governance
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