Review Article | Published:

Impacts of biodiversity on the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases

Nature volume 468, pages 647652 (02 December 2010) | Download Citation

Abstract

Current unprecedented declines in biodiversity reduce the ability of ecological communities to provide many fundamental ecosystem services. Here we evaluate evidence that reduced biodiversity affects the transmission of infectious diseases of humans, other animals and plants. In principle, loss of biodiversity could either increase or decrease disease transmission. However, mounting evidence indicates that biodiversity loss frequently increases disease transmission. In contrast, areas of naturally high biodiversity may serve as a source pool for new pathogens. Overall, despite many remaining questions, current evidence indicates that preserving intact ecosystems and their endemic biodiversity should generally reduce the prevalence of infectious diseases.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the support of the joint NSF-NIH Ecology of Infectious Disease programme and the EPA Biodiversity and Human Health programme. M. Gillespie provided help in the preparation of the manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Biology, Bard College, Annandale, New York 12504, USA

    • Felicia Keesing
  2. Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, USA

    • Lisa K. Belden
  3. EcoHealth Alliance, New York, New York 10001, USA

    • Peter Daszak
    •  & Tiffany Bogich
  4. EEB, Eno Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544-3417, USA

    • Andrew Dobson
  5. Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA

    • C. Drew Harvell
  6. Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA

    • Robert D. Holt
  7. Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, Pennsylvania State University, College Station, Pennsylvania 16802, USA

    • Peter Hudson
  8. College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331-4801, USA

    • Anna Jolles
  9. Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, London, NW1 4RY, UK

    • Kate E. Jones
  10. Department of Biology, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA

    • Charles E. Mitchell
  11. Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Samuel S. Myers
  12. Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York 12545, USA

    • Richard S. Ostfeld

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Contributions

F.K. and R.S.O. conceived the review. F.K., L.K.B., P.D., A.D., C.D.H., R.D.H., P.H., A.J., K.E.J., C.E.M., S.S.M. and R.S.O. wrote and edited the text. T.B. prepared Fig. 2.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Felicia Keesing.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature09575

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