Conserving tropical peatlands could reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the likelihood of animal-to-human transmission of new diseases, the researchers said. The conclusions of scientists are published by the journal PeerJ.
Scientists analyzed existing data and concluded that the high biodiversity of tropical peat-bog forests, combined with habitat destruction and wildlife prey, creates “suitable conditions” for new infectious diseases in animals that could spread to humans.
COVID-19 did not originate in an area of tropical peatlands, but the first animal-compatible case of Ebola originated in areas with extensive peatlands.
The study also assessed the possible impact of COVID-19 on the conservation of tropical peatlands and local communities. Scientists have found “numerous potential threats” for both.
“We are not saying that tropical peatlands are unique in this regard, but they are one of the important habitats where zoonoses (diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans) can occur,” explains Mark Harrison, lead author of the study. – Tropical peat-bog forests are rich in fauna and flora, including numerous vertebrates – bats, rodents, pangolins, and primates. These are the main carriers of zoonotic diseases. ”
“The exploitation and fragmentation of these animal habitats, as well as peat fires (ultimately caused by human activities) and the gathering of wildlife, are leading to closer contact with peatland biodiversity, increasing the likelihood of transmission of zoonotic diseases.”
Protecting tropical peatlands will not only help wildlife, but also save humanity from new pandemics, scientists conclude.