Some people think that a pathogen hiding somewhere in a dense jungle spreads to the outside world, spreading a new epidemic to human society. It is a way to turn the arrow on biodiversity where animals and plants thrive.
In practice, however, there is a growing fact that biodiversity loss increases exposure to existing or new animal pathogens. Experts say that restoring and protecting the damaged nature is rather essential for preventing the spread of infectious diseases in the future.
In a paper published in a recent issue of the National Academy of Sciences Bulletin (PNAS), a team at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in the United States synthesized an understanding of how biodiversity affects human health. Presented recommendations for future research for biodiversity management.
Dr. Felicia Keesing, a visiting scientist at the Cary Ecosystem Research Institute and Professor at Bard College, the first author of the paper, said, there is a persistent superstition that diseases are frequent in wild areas with high biodiversity. Then higher animal diversity should be proportional to the emergence of more dangerous pathogens, which turned out to be wrong.
Biodiversity protects human health from dangerous species
Biodiversity doesn't pose a threat to us, and it actually protects us from the most dangerous pathogenic species. Zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19, SARS, and Ebola are caused by pathogens shared between humans and other vertebrates. However, animal species differ in their ability to transmit pathogens.
Disease ecologist Rick Ostfeld, co-author of the paper said, species that thrive in degraded, developed environments are increasingly more efficient at carrying pathogens and transferring them to humans. In an environment where there are more animal diversity and less disturbing nature, there are not many reservoirs of such dangerous pathogens, and biodiversity has a protective effect. The pathogens that will appear later will come from mice rather than rhinos.
Rodents, bats, primates, split-hoofed mammals, and carnivores, such as sheep and deer, are classified as the most likely group of mammals to transmit pathogens to humans. Professor Kissing and Dr. Ostfeld said, the pathogens that will appear later are much more likely to come from mice than from rhinos.
This is explained by the fact that animals with short lifespans and fast life cycles tend to be more efficient at spreading pathogens.