Does biodiversity protect humans against infectious disease? Reply

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The dilution effect is the sort of idea that everyone wants to be true. If nature protects humans against infectious disease, imagine the implications: nature's value could be tallied in terms of human suffering avoided. This makes a potent argument for conservation, convincing even to those who would otherwise be disinclined to support conservation initiatives. The appeal of the dilution effect has been recognized by others: “the desire to make the case for conservation has led to broad claims regarding the benefits of nature conservation for human health” (Bauch et al. 2015). Randolph and Dobson (2012) were among the first to critique these claims, making the case that promotion of conservation to reduce Lyme disease risk, although well intentioned, was flawed. Along with Randolph and Dobson's critique, there have been several calls for a more nuanced scientific assessment of the relationship between biodiversity and disease transmission (Dunn 2010, Salkeld et al. 2013, Wood and Lafferty 2013, Young et al. 2013). In response, supporters of the dilution effect have instead increased the scope of their generalizations with review papers, press releases, and, like Levi et al. (2015), letters. These responses have been successful; it is not uncommon to read papers that repeat the assertion that biodiversity generally interferes with disease transmission and that conservation will therefore generally benefit human health. Here, we explain how Levi et al. (2015) and other, similar commentaries use selective interpretation and shifting definitions to argue for the generality of the dilution effect hypothesis.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Does biodiversity protect humans against infectious disease? Reply
Series title Ecology
DOI 10.1890/15-1503.1
Volume 97
Issue 2
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Publisher location Brooklyn, NY
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 4 p.
First page 543
Last page 546
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details