Posted by: r.m. | March 14, 2014

Lower biodiversity => lower human health

Scientifically, we know that what impacts our environment will impact us, as one of its species.  Spiritually, we know that we live a lonelier, sadder life if/when deprived of other non-human animals around us.

Here is more evidence that what harms our earth, does harm us directly.

From a paper published recently entitled, “Infectious Diseases and Their Outbreaks in Asia-Pacific: Biodiversity and Its Regulation Loss Matter

“Despite increasing control measures, numerous parasitic and infectious diseases are emerging, re-emerging or causing recurrent outbreaks particularly in Asia and the Pacific region, a hot spot of both infectious disease emergence and biodiversity at risk. We investigate how biodiversity affects the distribution of infectious diseases and their outbreaks in this region, taking into account socio-economics (population size, GDP, public health expenditure), geography (latitude and nation size), climate (precipitation, temperature) and biodiversity (bird and mammal species richness, forest cover, mammal and bird species at threat). We show, among countries, that the overall richness of infectious diseases is positively correlated with the richness of birds and mammals, but the number of zoonotic disease outbreaks is positively correlated with the number of threatened mammal and bird species and the number of vector-borne disease outbreaks is negatively correlated with forest cover. These results suggest that, among countries, biodiversity is a source of pathogens, but also that the loss of biodiversity or its regulation, as measured by forest cover or threatened species, seems to be associated with an increase in zoonotic and vector-borne disease outbreaks.”

In other words, as biodiversity decreases, so does human health.

Is this new? Noted blogger and conservation-biologist reported last year that:

“..there are quite a few examples of how we’re rapidly making ourselves more susceptible to killer infectious diseases simply by our modification of the landscape and seascape. Some examples are required to illustrate the point. Schistosomiasis is a snail-borne fluke that infects millions worldwide, and it is on the rise again from expanding habitat of its host due to poor agricultural practices, bad hygiene, damming of large river systems and climate warming. Malaria too is on the rise, with greater and greater risk in the endemic areas of its mosquito hosts. Chagas (a triatomine bug-borne trypanosome) is also increasing in extent and risk.

We do need the reminder, though.  We do need to be told again that habitat lossfragmentationinvasive speciesover-exploitation and of course,climate change, are bad for biodiversity.  And that a degraded ecosystem results in degraded human health.



  1. It is not something new that the environment affects the human health in a way or another. But what is new to me is that “as biodiversity decreases, so does human health”, which seems also logical and convincing. Did we ask ourselves why biodiversity is decreasing? Well i think we are responsible for that also. We as humans are acting in an independent way from our environment. We are indirectly causing some living things to extinction! This triggers some diseases and thus affecting human health and so on … Simply, biodiversity is really important in enhancing human health! I

  2. This is an absolutely great article because it’s basically giving us more reasons to preserve the animals and plants that are still present till this day. The ugly truth is that we don’t do anything unless it beneifts us. This article should quite motivate humans, that don’t quite care for other animals and plants, to protect the different organisms living among them since this will consequently lead to their protection from different diseases. Humans are actually destroying the habitats of many different organisms to get natural resources for industry production; however, by the destruction of these habitats we are leading to the reduction of biodiversity. As mentioned in the article, the reduction in biodiversity leads to a reduction in human health. This is why it is crucial to stop all forms of damage (cutting trees, building dams, throwing our garbage in the sea, etc.) that we are causing to our environment and the organisms living in it.

  3. The article presents statistical studies and proofs for the direct correlation between loss of biodiversity and the spread of infectious diseases. Although previously thought that biodiversity is itself the cause of diseases, it has been proven the opposite. It is necessary all forms of living creatures, whether reptiles, mammals or others to live harmoniously in nature. If there is a certain unbalance, the ecosystem could be disrupted and hence the human health would be at risk. Therefore taking care of our nature, by encouraging plantation, for example and prevention of animals habitats destruction would definitely reflect positively on the human health.

  4. The relationship seems very logical to me: Lower biodiversity leads to a degraded ecosystem that in its turn, leads to a degraded human health. However, we used to think that all our diseases are nothing but the effect of other species on us, humans (contact-borne bacterial diseases due to certain vectors for example). But, we are ignoring the advantages these other species, creatures and plants have and how helpful they are in our daily life (starting from Oxygen we breathe). I won’t say we should be aware of whatever damage we are causing to our Earth because we are more than aware of that but we just like to simply ignore it; it’s easier and less time-consuming too. We are so fake that we believe we care about our health and do anything to protect ourselves but on the other hand, we are helping in destroying the earth primarily, and us secondarily, by being guided by our lack of logic, knowledge, humanity and sense of survival.

  5. Nicolas Abdallah (BIOL207)
    We all are aware of the fact that most of the diseases are caused by microorganisms (and viruses if we are to exclude them from being a “living” entity). These tiny creatures are members of our ecosystem. Thus, it’s very logical to state that any imbalance in this ecosystem will affect them like any other species. What our world is going through now is providing a good atmosphere for these disease-causing agents.

    The article raises a very interesting point: That not only diseases are affected by biodiversity, but also by climate change, as “richness of infectious diseases is positively linked to temperature”. With the huge rate at which the temperature of our earth is jumping, fertile environments for diseases are being created day after day. So I guess it’s pretty safe to assume that in 50 years or so, Malaria will be found in London, as its climate might become like that of Africa.
    Not only that, but crowding the earth with much more people than it can sustain does also have a huge effect on increasing the transmission rate of diseases as the article points out. We really need to start taking this issue seriously! Condoms are here for us, so let’s use them! (This last sentence might not be well perceived, but I didn’t find any better one to say). Reducing the fertility and thereby the population of the earth is really a good solution for many humanitarian, ecological, social, and economical issues.

    Hopefully we will get the main point behind this article; that our actions and activities are starting to show a very direct impact on us! We should be in harmony with the ecosystem. If we disturb it, the nature’s balance will be broken, and we will have many severe consequences, with increasing the prevalence and transmission of vector-borne diseases the milder among them.
    What I’m most afraid of, however, is to see people interpreting this article as if it’s a request to reduce biodiversity because it says that “a country with high biodiversity hosts a greater diversity of infectious diseases”. I’m saying this because it’s unfortunately not very unlikely that some people might think this way!

  6. it was great to read about how the environment and human health can be so significantly related. i tried to understand as much as i could from the first article but i felt it exceeded my knowledge of reading graphs and understanding. it was backed up tremendously with statistical data that i tried as best as could to make sense of. however the take-home message from it was that there is a lot of evidence supporting the matter that outbreaks of pathogens and diseases are proportional to the decrease of biodiversity. i was more comfortable reading the second article and enjoyed bradshaws way of writing. there i was made clear of the importance of a good running ecosystem in relation to the health of the individuals living off of it. it sounds almost logical to care about your surroundings because it affects you and yet policies are not made accordingly. these types of articles are good for us humans because we tend to neglect anything that doesn’t concern us directly. id like to also quote my favorite comment of the second article that seems almost silly to not take into great consideration: “It’s taken humanity a while to realise that what we do to the planet, we eventually end up doing to ourselves”. another important point mentioned was, under other diseases, malaria. my father works in west africa and is horribly prone to malaria and catches it quite often. i hope for research solutions and await to read about the work they are planning to publish concerning these problems and definitely want to read the world health organization report he mentioned. hopefully you post and comment on it for us to read. as mentioned, i think it is a win win situation for everyone, whether humanitarian or ecologist, to care about our ecosystem and hence our health.

  7. Aida Metri (Biol207)

    “Our results follow the conclusion of this study and may suggest that although biodiversity is a source of pathogens, well-preserved biodiversity could act an insurance against outbreaks.”
    Biodiversity is something we were born with. It has always existed in our world but is now, unfortunately, decreasing with time. There is an obvious link between biodiversity and diseases, because as biodiversity decreases with time, the number of diseases and the spread of diseases are increasing. Our ancestors used to live in such a biodiverse, natural, green world that was just so healthy to live in. There used to be just the correct amount of every kind of species. Now a days, the world we live in just isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Too many natural places are becoming people made. There are more buildings then trees. Each piece of nature we destroy we are harming tons of diverse organisms that have the right to their habitat just as much as we do.

    I previously commented on your article, “keep the frogs, get rid of the princes” which in a way discussed a similar issue. We were getting rid of the frogs, and a decrease in frog numbers affect so many living things, some of which are: monkeys, lizards, mango-eating ants, wasps , owls, mosquitoes, wild pigs, mango trees and some microbial parasite. These will eventually harm the human race, especially when all we have left are mosquitoes. In this way, we are getting rid of the biodiversity of the living things, decreasing so many, but increasing mosquitoes which is something we shouldn’t have so much of around, and therefor increasing our risk of malaria.

    Biodiversity is something we had in our world before we started destroying it. When we had biodiversity, we didn’t have as many diseases. So keep the biodiversity, for the sake of our health.

  8. It is really depressing how humans are destroying them selves slowly. As mentioned in the articles above they are eradicating biodiversity which in turn is increasing the chance of getting infectious diseases. Obsession extremely blinded them in a way that they can’t see that they are actually the main impact on human health. They are so selfish and ignorants, that all they think about is money. No matter at what cost, they will continue on erasing many species to fill their pockets. It’s their nature to do only what pleases them and suits them. They can’t realize that each animal in this planet has a role. Each one of them contributes to the equilibrium of the earth. By destroying biodiversity humans are affecting the equilibrium leading not only to an increase in infectious diseases but also to natural disasters and climate change. However, the question is: how are they going to be able to enjoy all this money if they are not healthy? Fortunately, there are still some wise people (like the authors of the articles above) who really care about biodiversity and know that it directly impact human health. Each one of us should do something. If we don’t, we will be indirectly collaborating on the destruction of biodiversity. Making reforestation campaigns could be a good start. Also, encouraging people to participate in campaigns against ecosystem’s destruction. We need to preserve the few species remaining. Humans are clever enough to find a way to get the natural resources they need without harming animals and plants. The only reason why they don’t try is because it’s time consuming and they wouldn’t make as much money as they want.

  9. ” Our results follow the conclusion of this study and may suggest that although biodiversity is a source of pathogens, well-preserved biodiversity could act an insurance against outbreaks. ” at first this statement seemed contradictory , how can it be a source of pathogens and yet an insurance against their outbreak??? but than i thought of the example of wild animals ; all of them originate from biodiversity and if no interaction is made in their life space they will stay bound to their habitat and never cause harm to any human which is totally logical . i know this isn’t a disease’s example but this is the closest thing i could think of . This phenomena is explained by theories in the article as the factor of dilution , which play a major role in infectious diseases as many hosts will dilute the effect of the pathogen as having to adapt to different life styles and conditions .This is making our life take really bad turn , and if we could learn anything from the past , it should be that some diseases are best kept asleep even if it costs us millions of dollars in theoretical investments it is still way better than losing millions of human lives .
    PS:The good thing about this all is that us human are very kind , we don’t like other biological creatures to suffer from diseases so we’re limiting the forests and natural spaces so that we take all the hit our self and make sure that none of poor other creatures gets harmed by these diseases , we were always a superior specie that’s why we need to sacrifice our well being for the contort of animals , it was never about the investments just about the cute animals ( pure human logic )

  10. It is of no surprise that “ecological services” do exist in nature and any harm that we inflict upon our ecosystem will soon backfire on us. This matter should be a constant reminder for humans about the necessity to respect nature and all the livings things that we SHARE our ecosystem with. Climate change ultimately will lead to habitat loss and massive animal extinction something that we have sadly already started experiencing. It is only when we realize how declines in species diversity will lead to outbreak of infectious disease and consequently to death, poverty, and wars, will we intend to take action. It is a moral and economic obligation that is of great benefit to the ecosystem as a whole to help save the biodiversity of the planet before it is too late and infectious diseases become severely uncontrollable.

  11. The problem with the human race is that we are raised to think that we are above all other species. We think we own the planet and we are allowed to kill, eliminate, and control all other living and non-living being on earth. We should learn that we are not above the ecosystem; we are at the core of the ecosystem. Any changes in our environment will affect us. Nature is the source of our energy, medicine, food, and other. We should not be ungrateful by our irresponsibility.

  12. Ignorance, stupidity, and indifference describe this type of humans who are selfish, care only about money and thinks nature’s role is only to provide us with infinite resources. The misinterpreted nature by thinking that it’s infinite. Water is not infinite, so aren’t the other resources. Every single little tiny specie in this work has a role. It’s a cycle. If you take one thing out, everything collapses. It is not surprising that by killing a certain animal, it will lead to the emerging of infectious diseases. The animals we think are useless actually are important and without them, many diseases can arise. ”These results suggest that, among countries, biodiversity is a source of pathogens, but also that the loss of biodiversity or its regulation, as measured by forest cover or threatened species, seems to be associated with an increase in zoonotic and vector-borne disease outbreaks”. Obviously, the source of the diseases is the nature, but the cause of the increase of proliferation of the disease is human acts. Nature it self knows how to control it. However, it is dependent on the biodiversity to do so. Therefore, if biodiversity decreases, so will human health do.

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