Conservation implications of disease control

J. C. Buck, S. B. Weinstein, G. Titcomb and H. S. Young,  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment,  6. 2020.

Infectious diseases have indelibly altered human history and, in doing so, have shaped the ecology and conservation of the natural world. Attempts to control diseases often result in adverse environmental impacts, including habitat degradation and unintended outcomes such as effects on non-target species. However, in instances where the most effective strategy is to physically avoid specific species or habitats, disease can also provide critical de facto conservation benefits to organisms and ecosystems. Increasingly, new genome-editing technologies offer the potential to eradicate long-term health scourges, which disproportionately affect people in developing countries. It will be critical to incorporate an understanding of the ecological consequences of disease control – including those mediated by changes in human behavior – into management strategies, and to do so without propagating environmental injustice. In this way, scientists, resource managers, and health practitioners can help to ensure that gains for human health do not result in losses for the natural world.


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