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New Research Suggests That Human-Driven Environmental Changes, Like Biodiversity Loss, May Increase The Likelihood Of Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Alix Millet - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only

It’s no secret that humans are causing environmental changes that put all living species on Earth at risk. Some of these changes include habitat destruction, shifts in vegetation patterns, and frozen pollution in Antarctic ice.

Now, a study has shown that human-driven environmental changes also increase the likelihood of infectious disease outbreaks to occur.

The loss of biodiversity on the planet is the biggest contributing factor to the spread and severity of disease.

According to Jason Rohr, a co-author of the study and a biologist at the University of Notre Dame, altering the environment in the drastic ways humans are currently doing can increase the risk of future pandemics.

The researchers analyzed the impact of factors such as climate change, biodiversity change, habitat change/loss, chemical pollution, and the introduction of invasive species. They also considered how the risk of disease would affect plants and animals, not just humans.

They found that chemical pollution, climate change, the introduction of invasive species, and biodiversity loss all heightened the probability of spreading disease. Biodiversity loss had the most significant impact.

In regions of the world where human activity has caused biodiversity to decline, disease and mortality were found to be nine times greater than in places that have retained their natural biodiversity.

The scientists believe that this is due to the “dilution effect,” which is an idea implying that the loss of rarer creatures leads to higher infection prevalence in more common species.

For instance, white-footed mice have become one of the main species in their habitat as rarer animals have disappeared. They are also the principal carriers of Lyme disease and may be part of the reason that rates of Lyme disease in the United States have risen.

Alix Millet – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only

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