Anthropogenic environmental change and the emergence of infectious diseases in wildlife, Daszak, Cunningham & Hyatt 2001

Compendium Volume 4 Number 1 July 2020

Humans are not the only species to suffer global pandemics. Planetwide, fungal disease ravages amphibians, just as honeybees are ravaged by varroasis. A herpes virus caused mass mortality of pilchard fish off the coast of Australia and New Zealand in 1995, and seals from Antarctica to the Caspian Sea have contracted canine distemper viruses, for which domestic dogs are also hosts.

The authors point to multiple anthropogenic environmental changes as the underlying causes of disease emergence among wildlife, livestock and humans.

Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are defined as diseases that have recently increased in incidence or geographic range, recently moved into new host populations, recently been discovered or are caused by newly-evolved pathogens [Daszak 2001: 103].

Two major known causes of disease emergence in wildlife are (1) “spillover” of livestock disease into wild populations; and (2) pathogen pollution, which stems from the global transport of domestic and wild animals, and contaminated products and materials. In addition, habitat destruction and fragmentation, and toxic pollution, are likely to contribute to disease emergence, although these factors hadn’t been as well studied (at least at the time of the writing in 2001).

The authors conclude with the following observation:

We have described a group of wildlife diseases that can be classified as emerging in the same way as human EIDs. These represent a link in the chain of emergence of human and domestic animal diseases, with pathogens, habitats and environmental changes shared between these populations. Parallels between causes of emergence across these groups of diseases demonstrates an important concept: that human environmental change may be the most significant driver of wildlife, domestic animal and human EIDs [Daszak 2001: 112].

Daszak, P., A.A. Cunningham & A.D. Hyatt, 2001, Anthropogenic environmental change and the emergence of infectious diseases in wildlife, Acta Tropica 78,

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