Destruction Of World’s Forests Will Unleash More Pandemics, Scientists Warn
Scientists have warned that the continued destruction of the world’s forests will result in more pandemics being unleashed.
A UN summit on biodiversity is scheduled for September 30 in New York, with the theme of ‘Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development’.
At this summit, scientists will warn world leaders of the dangers to health presented by the deforestation, offering clear evidence of the connection between environmental destruction and the increased emergence of deadly new infections.
According to an outline of the summit on the UN website:
The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of the relationship between people and nature. We are reminded that when we destroy and degrade biodiversity, we undermine the web of life and increase the risk of disease spillover from wildlife to people.
Responses to the pandemic provide a unique opportunity for transformative change as a global community. An investment in the health of our planet is an investment in our own future.
Scientists at the summit will explain how factors such as deforestation, widespread farming expansion, building mines in remote areas and the wild animal exploitation are all leading to a ‘perfect storm’ for diseases to spill over from wildlife to human beings.
As reported by The Guardian, scientists have claimed that nearly one-third of all emerging infections have originated on account of land use change. Because of this, we could soon be seeing five or six new epidemics each year.
A connection between deforestation and pandemics has long been suspected, however a new study published in early August has helped to reveal why this is the case.
This study, published in Nature, found that by diminishing biodiversity through deforestation and building infrastructure, human beings are increasing the likelihood of global pandemics such as coronavirus.
While some species are being wiped out completely, creatures that are more likely to survive and thrive despite deforestation, for example rats and bats, are more likely to be carrying potentially harmful pathogens that can be transmitted to humans.
Researchers analysed approximately 6,800 ecological communities throughout six continents, contributing to a flourishing body of evidence connecting human development trends and loss of biodiversity to serious outbreaks.
Kate Jones, study author and ecological modeller at University College London, said:
We’ve been warning about this for decades. Nobody paid any attention.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a renewed interest in this sort of research, with efforts to map risks worldwide, projecting where diseases are more likely to emerge taking greater prominence.
As per a separate paper published in Science in July, various scientists and economists have proposed establishing a scheme to monitor wildlife, cut down on spillovers and deforestation, and stop the wildlife meat trade.
The programme could reportedly end up costing more than $20 billion each year. This is of course a large sum of money, but it is small change compared to the economic damage inflicted by pandemics such as the one we are currently living through.
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CreditsNature and 3 others
General Assembly of United Nations