Researchers from the University of South Florida (USF) and a colleague at the Institute of Zoology in Beijing, China have found that outbreaks of three emerging diseases and parasites — West Nile virus, Lyme disease and amphibian chytridiomycosis — are driven by different ecological processes at different spatial scales. Their data also suggests that focusing on a single spatial scale can lead to inaccurate estimations of the impact humans are having on biodiversity, disease emergence, and the environment.
A paper describing their research was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Humans are contributing to unprecedented rates of infectious disease emergence, climate change and biodiversity loss,” said study leader Jeremy Cohen, a graduate student in USF’s Department of Integrative Biology. “However, whether human ecological impacts affect the distribution of disease and other organisms differently at local or regional scales has been a compelling question, one that the research team wanted to answer.”
Because understanding emerging diseases is critically important to both biodiversity conservation and human health, the team’s research goal was to determine whether and how spatial scales influenced the perceived importance of various ecological processes to disease distributions across the US. The researchers subsequently examined how human activities drive the distributions of three important diseases and parasites: West Nile…