A new study claims that human-caused climate change can predict zoonotic diseases (diseases from wildlife or livestock) like Zika and Ebola based on changes in the environment. The abnormal rise in the average surface temperatures on earth is also responsible for the first extinction of a mammal species.
Climate Change Can Predict Zika And Ebola Outbreaks
Scientists at the University College London (UCL) have developed a model that can predict Zika and Ebola outbreaks based on the changes in the environment. These zoonotic diseases, coming from animals, can be determined through climate change, land consumption and population growth.
In the study titled “Predicting disease outbreaks using environmental changes,” which was published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution and the Wiley Online Library, UCL-led researchers said that more than 60 percent of infectious diseases emerging at present are zoonotic. Aside from Zika and Ebola, Lassa fever and Rift Valley fever are also likely to spread given the changing environmental factors.
“Our new approach successfully predicts outbreaks of individual diseases by pairing the changes in the host's distribution as the environment changes with the mechanics of how that disease spreads from animals to people, which hasn't been done before,” The University College London cited Dr. David Redding from UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment as saying.
“It allows us to calculate how often people are likely to come into contact with disease-carrying animals and their risk of the virus spilling over,” he added.
The approach has already been successful at predicting the current disease patterns of Lassa fever. The model predicted a number of people with the disease will increase from 195,125 to 406,725 by 2070 due to a growing human population as well as climate change.
“This model is a major improvement in our understanding of the spread of diseases from animals to people,” Lead author Professor Kate Jones, UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment, said.
“We hope it can be used to help communities prepare and respond to disease outbreaks, as well as to make decisions about environmental change factors that may be within their control,” the author added.
Climate Change Has Claimed Its First Mammal Extinction
Meanwhile, Australian researchers have confirmed the first extinction of a mammal species brought about by climate change.
The Australian rodent Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola), which can only be found on Bramble Cay in the northeast Torres Strait Islands of Queensland, is the first mammal species known that became extinct because of human-caused climate change.
In a report titled “Confirmation Of The Extinction Of The Bramble Cay Melomys Melomys Rubicola On Bramble Cay, Torres Strait,” which was published on the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) website, multiple occasions of flooding on the island in the last decade were found to be responsible for the extinction of the mammals.
“The seawater has destroyed the animal’s habitat and food source,” The New York Times reported University of Queensland scientist Dr. Luke Leung as saying via telephone.
He said that it would not have had to occur frequently for the mammals to be wiped out. It just had to happen often enough to kill the plants they need, which rely on fresh water. He also said that the flooding was likely to have drowned the mammals.
Scientists predicted that such a phenomenon will happen since some species cannot migrate or evolve fast enough to cope with the effects of the climate change. Animal species experience climate change affecting their habitats that could lead to their extinction.
The researchers concluded that the first recorded mammalian extinction represented an alarming anthropogenic climate change.