Over the past century, an average of two novel viruses per year have moved from their wild hosts into humans. As more forests are lost, that pace is increasing. Deforestation in the tropics, mostly caused by agriculture, is driving an increased rate of pathogen spillover from wildlife to humans, researchers from Emory University, the Zoological Society of London, Princeton University, and the University of Chicago say in a letter to the editor of Global Change Biology. As forests are destroyed and fragmented, wildlife is forced into closer, more frequent, and novel contact with humans. This increased contact, especially with animals whose health and behavior have been altered by human pressures, means a greater risk of zoonotic diseases spilling over from animals to humans — a lesson driven home by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The COVID‐19 pandemic has forced us to recognize the linkages between our health, the environment, and financial and agricultural systems,” the letter says. “Protecting and promoting tropical forests is one of the most immediate steps we can take to simultaneously mitigate climate change while reducing the risk of future pandemics.” Tropical deforestation is affecting not only the health of plants and animals that depend on the forest directly, but also of people worldwide through increased disease transmission, loss of ecosystem services, and accelerated climate change. A recent analysis found that cutting deforestation levels by half would not only be a cost-effective way to reduce the risk of pathogen spillover but would contribute nearly $4 billion per year in…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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