Biodiversity and Disease Emergence: Brazil case study

Land – use change in Brazil is a clear threat to biodiversity. We conducted project activities in two regions of Brazil: the Atlantic Forest and the Brazilian Amazon. Along with University of São Paulo and EcoHealth Alliance our team investigate the mechanisms underlying disease emergence by assessing the impacts of land use change, the types and degrees of human – wildlife contact, and viral diversity assessing bat host population. The team was composed by veterinarians, epidemiologists, social scientists and ecologists. In the Atlantic Forest, we worked in Pontal do Paranapanema. This area is located in the extreme western part of the Atlantic Forest in São Paulo State and is one of the most threatened biodiversity hotspots in the world (Myers, et al. 2000).

The process of forest fragmentation in the region is relatively recent beginning about 50 years ago, but only 17% of the original biome remains in a matrix composed mainly of pastures and sugar cane plantations. The Forest was replaced by farms, and more recently, with Landless Workers Movement become a matrix of small properties (10 ha ) along with farms. Therefore, we have important forest patches and a State Park – Morro do Diabo under high human pressure, posing many kinds of threats – hunting, pesticides and deforestation.

Despite its environmental importance, the park and the Forest patches are under intense anthropic pressure, changing the natural cycles of disease.

In the Brazilian Amazon, we faced a different dynamic, were the deforestation process is on going, and the human – animal contact has a different interaction from Brazilian Atlantic Forest. The information generated with this project will give a better understanding of human-animal contact, as well as how fragmentation influences host diversity and viral diversity. These information are critical to understand how zoonotic infections emerge and spread.

 

Alessandra Nava  |  nava@ecohealthalliance.org

For a decade, I have dedicated my life to the field of conservation medicine, working with sentinel species such as jaguars and peccaries. Landscape change and human development along with a sustainable relation along wildlife were my focus of study. These experiences led me to a career that focuses on the interconnectivity of humans, wildlife, and ecosystems. From 2008 my team work with active surveillance for emergent diseases in Brazilian Amazon forest and Atlantic Forest, sampling bats, rodents and primates, and measuring the types of contact that human populations have with wildlife in these different ecosystems. 

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