Conservation, biodiversity and infectious disease: scientific evidence and policy implications

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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Abstract

Habitat destruction and infectious disease are dual threats to nature and people. The potential to simultaneously advance conservation and human health has attracted considerable scientific and popular interest; in particular, many authors have justified conservation action by pointing out potential public health benefits . One major focus of this debate—that biodiversity conservation often decreases infectious disease transmission via the dilution effect—remains contentious. Studies that test for a dilution effect often find a negative association between a diversity metric and a disease risk metric, but how such associations should inform conservation policy remains unclear for several reasons. For one, diversity and infection risk have many definitions, making it possible to identify measures that conform to expectations. Furthermore, the premise that habitat destruction consistently reduces biodiversity is in question, and disturbance or conservation can affect disease in many ways other than through biodiversity change. To date, few studies have examined the broader set of mechanisms by which anthropogenic disturbance or conservation might increase or decrease infectious disease risk to human populations. Due to interconnections between biodiversity change, economics and human behaviour, moving from ecological theory to policy action requires understanding how social and economic factors affect conservation.

This Theme Issue arose from a meeting aimed at synthesizing current theory and data on ‘biodiversity, conservation and infectious disease’ (4–6 May 2015). Ecologists, evolutionary biologists, economists, epidemiologists, veterinary scientists, public health professionals, and conservation biologists from around the world discussed the latest research on the ecological and socio-economic links between conservation, biodiversity and infectious disease, and the open questions and controversies in these areas. By combining ecological understanding with insights from the social and economic sciences, the papers in this Theme Issue address the complex relationships, patterns and ecological mechanisms that influence conservation, infectious disease, and the policy options available to protect nature and human health.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Conservation, biodiversity and infectious disease: scientific evidence and policy implications
Series title Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
DOI 10.1098/rstb.2016.0124
Volume 372
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher The Royal Society Publishing
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description Article 20160124; 4 p.
First page 1
Last page 4