A comprehensive analysis has found that the human destruction of natural ecosystems has directly increased the number of animals that harbor diseases which can lead to future pandemics, such as COVID-19.
A research study that assessed nearly 7,000 animal communities across six continents has found that due to the destruction of wild spaces into farmland and housing has directly contributed to a lower population of larger species. The study also found that these damages actually benefit smaller, more adaptable animals such as bats and rats, who also happen to carry the most pathogens that can be passed on to humans.
The study also found that the number of animal populations that were hosts of ‘zoonotic diseases’ was up to 2.5X bigger in areas where habitats had been destroyed and that the proportion of species that carry these pathogens increased by roughly 70% compared to places with undamaged ecosystems.
Following the coronavirus outbreak, the UN and WHO have issued a series of warnings that the world must do more to actively tackle the cause of such outbreaks which are caused by the destruction of nature. In April this year, world-leading biodiversity experts even said that more deadly diseases and outbreaks were incredibly likely unless more is done to protect nature and natural habitats.
David Redding, of the ZSL Institute of Zoology in London, who was one of the research team of the study, said: “As people go in and, for example, turn a forest into farmland, what they’re doing inadvertently is making it more likely for them to be in contact with an animal that carries disease”.