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Amazon Forest Fire May Soon Boost Malaria Rates, Study Warns

The growing rates of Amazon forest fire may soon lead to a significant increase in malaria cases. A new study warns that loss of trees due to wildfires as well as illegal logging would expand the habitat of the disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Brazil has been losing large parts of the Amazon rainforest since 2014. Researchers said that at least 10 percent of increase in the deforestation could lead to 3.27 percent increase in malaria cases, Inverse reported Monday.

The team from the University of California and Stanford University analyzed data from nearly 800 municipalities in the Brazilian Amazon. Researchers also looked into records of malaria between 2003 and 2015.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows removing trees for land development leads to more forest edge. These open areas provide wider habitat where mosquitoes can breed. 

“The key implication is that forest clearing has a direct impact on human health, in addition to the loss of other ecosystem services such as species diversity, water quality, and carbon storage,” the researchers said. 

However, the team said it became complicated when malaria cases continued to climb. They found that deforestation forced communities to move away from the forest, which reduced the risk of human exposure to the mosquitoes.

The growing rates of the disease also eventually led to a drop in cleared forest area. Researchers found when malaria infections increased by 1 percent, deforestation rates declined by 1.4 percent.

The presence of malaria “clearly and consistently” reduced economic activity, migration and settlement near the forest. These changes led to a drop in tree clearing, researchers said. 

The team hopes to use their findings to guide development of new policies to manage forest conservation, land use and public health in the Amazon. The study comes after Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro decided to cut some environmental regulations focused on the rainforest.

“The impact of alternative livelihoods to deforestation and subsequent agricultural activities on conservation and health should also be considered in such a policy context,” the researchers said. Protecting the environment “may have dual benefits for conservation and health.” 

forest fire Experts said that forest fires can contribute to climate crisis and cause health problems in humans. Pixabay

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