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The Nexus Between Forest Fragmentation in Africa and Ebola Virus Disease Outbreaks

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The Nexus Between Forest Fragmentation in Africa and Ebola Virus Disease Outbreaks

Maria Cristina Rulli et al. Sci Rep.

Abstract

Tropical forests are undergoing land use change in many regions of the world, including the African continent. Human populations living close to forest margins fragmented and disturbed by deforestation may be particularly exposed to zoonotic infections because of the higher likelihood for humans to be in contact with disease reservoirs. Quantitative analysis of the nexus between deforestation and the emergence of Ebola virus disease (EVD), however, is still missing. Here we use land cover change data in conjunction with EVD outbreak records to investigate the association between recent (2004-2014) outbreaks in West and Central Africa, and patterns of land use change in the region. We show how in these EVD outbreaks the index cases in humans (i.e. spillover from wildlife reservoirs) occurred mostly in hotspots of forest fragmentation.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. Forest cover maps and locations of first infection events in humans.
Forest cover maps and locations of independent first infection events in humans (triangles, see Table 1) in Central (a) and West (b) Africa. The insets indicate the two African regions considered in this study. Legend in (b) is the same than in (a). Maps generated by the authors using ARCGIS 10.2-Version 10.2.0.338, licensed to Politecnico di Milano. The license term can be found on the following link: http://www.esri.com/legal/software-license.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Forest fragmentation in Central and West Africa.
Forest fragmentation in Central (panels a, and b) and West Africa (Panels c and d) in 2000 (top panels) and 2014 (bottom panels). Fragmentation is measured by the number of patch, edge, perforated and smaller forest areas (<200 ha). Most of the centers of first infection (yellow triangular markers) are located in areas affected by increasing forest fragmentation (see Table S3, S4). Maps generated by the authors using ARCGIS 10.2-Version 10.2.0.338, licensed to Politecnico di Milano. The license term can be found on the following link: http://www.esri.com/legal/software-license.

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