Changes in the type and prevalence of human diseases have occurred during shifts in human social organization, for example, from hunting and gathering to agriculture and with urbanization during the Industrial Revolution. The recent emergence and reemergence of infectious diseases appears to be driven by globalization and ecological disruption. We propose that habitat destruction and biodiversity loss associated with biotic homogenization can increase the incidence and distribution of infectious diseases affecting humans. The clearest connection between biotic homogenization and infectious disease is the spread of nonindigenous vectors and pathogens. The loss of predators and hosts that dilute pathogen transmission can also increase the incidence of vectorborne illnesses. Other mechanisms include enhanced abiotic conditions for pathogens and vectors and higher host-pathogen encounter rates. Improved understanding of these causal mechanisms can inform decisionmaking on biodiversity conservation as an effective way to protect human health.
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Vol. 59 • No. 11