Land use for intensive agriculture, which brings together wildlife with disturbed habitats, makes pandemics such as COVID-19 more likely to occur, according to a study released Wednesday.
According to this study published in the journal Nature, diseases carried by wild animals are more likely to be transmitted to humans due to changes in land use.
The UN estimates that three-quarters of the earth’s land has been largely degraded by human activities since the start of the industrial age.
One third of the land and three quarters of the fresh water is used in particular by agriculture.
This use of land for agriculture is growing every year, often to the detriment of ecosystems such as forests, which are home to wild animals that are themselves hosts of many pathogens potentially transmissible to humans.
The team at University College London (UCL) reviewed 6,800 ecosystems across the planet and found that animals known to carry pathogens (bats, rodents, birds) are more numerous in landscapes intensely modified by Men.
Results which, according to them, prove the need to change the way in which humanity uses land, to reduce the risks of future pandemics.
“The way humans modify landscapes across the world, transforming forests into agricultural land, has constant impacts on many species of wildlife, leading to the decline of some and the persistence or increase of others”, commented Rory Gibb, researcher at UCL.
“Our results show that animals that persist in human-dominated environments are the most likely to carry infectious diseases that can make people sick,” he adds.
COVID-19, which has infected more than 18 million people worldwide and killed more than 700,000, has likely passed from animal to human before being transmitted from human to human.
The new coronavirus is just one of many deadly viruses that have made the leap between animals and humans and as the reservoirs of wildlife are increasingly under pressure, the risk of leakage increases. .
“As farmlands and cities continue to expand, we should strengthen our disease surveillance and health arrangements in areas where the territories are highly disturbed,” said Kate Jones, who also participated in the study, arguing for governments to consider agriculture and agrifood chains as directly linked to human health.