‘Deforestation spurs mosquito-borne diseases’

September 8th, 2008 - 1:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 8 (IANS) Rampant deforestation will spur the rate of mosquito-borne infections unless reduced or replaced with more careful land clearing practices, researchers have warned. Andrew Jardine, Angus Cook and Philip Weinstein from University of Western Australia’s (UWA) School of Population Health and Lara O’Sullivan, from its School of Humanities, cited a 2005 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation to make their point.

The FAO report found that between 2000 to 2005 approximately 13 million hectares of forest were cleared every year, a net loss of 7.3 million hectares per annum - after taking into account reafforestation and forest expansion.

“The severity of the impact of such large-scale environmental change on human health is only beginning to be quantified, yet the nexus between such change and human health may be traceable back to antiquity.”

“Are humans slow learners about disease and environmental change?” the researchers asked. “The evidence from the capital of the Roman Empire suggests that perhaps we are.”

They buttressed their study with the example of ancient Rome, a historical case study of the possible links between deforestation and an increase in malarial disease. Weinstein said there were many examples from around the world that suggested that Rome’s experiences were being repeated.

“A growing body of research, spanning studies from Africa, Australia, and the Amazon, points to a connection between mosquito-borne disease rates and ecological changes associated with deforestation,” he said.

“The evidence calls for careful management of agricultural clearing and a multi-disciplinary approach to policy development on the issue, particularly in regions where there are already indications of escalating disease rates.”

The report was published in the current issue of BioScience.

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