music ambience Dawn Chorus; Yuba Pass, CA
Biodiversity – the rich mix of plants and animals found in a healthy ecosystem – is not just a warm, fuzzy ideal. Losing biodiversity could be hazardous to your health. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Dr. Terry Yates, the Vice Provost for Research at the University of New Mexico, works on tracing the origins of viruses. He says that when we allow native species of animals and plants to die out, we create opportunities for pathogens, the agents that carry viruses and cause disease.
“A number studies have indicated that as we lose species communities and have a more simple ecosystem, that many times that creates problems for human health because a less diverse community is often one that favors pathogens.
An example of this is on Lyme disease for instance. Lyme disease is much more of a public health problem in those ecosystems that are species-poor compared to those that are species-rich. And thereâ€™s many examples of that through time.
We found that the mice that carry Hanta virus in Panama, when habitats are modified by humans, such as places where the rainforest has been cut and replaced by pastures. The number of species of rodents that are present in those communities is substantially less than in the native pristine forest nearby and the prevalence of Hanta virus in the pristine habitats where diverse communities exist is much, much less than in those communities dominated by humans. And so humans are essentially creating an ecosystem in which theyâ€™re living that makes them at greater risk to these pathogens.”
Looking at the environment in which a virus spreads is just one of many ways scientists learn about the disease. Weâ€™ll hear more in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.