Research Links Malaria To Forest Clearing In The Amazon

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MADISON, Wis. – Clearing tropical forest in the Amazon basin boosts the rate of malaria by nearly 50 percent, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison reported recently.

The scientists combined information on the incidence of malaria in 54 Brazilian health districts with high-resolution satellite images of logging in the Amazon forest.

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The forest clearing created conditions that favor malaria’s primary carrier in the region: the Anopheles darlingi mosquito, says Dr. Sarah Olson, lead author of the report and a fellow at the Nelson Institute, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.

“The deforested landscape, with more open spaces and partially sunlit pools of water, appears to provide an ideal habitat for this mosquito,” she says.

Relatively small alterations to the environment led to big health problems, says co-author Dr. Jonathan Patz, professor of population health sciences at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. A four percent change in forest cover was associated with a 48 percent increase in malaria incidence.

The take-home message, according to Patz and Olson, is that tropical forest conservation may benefit human health more than we realized.


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