Project Deep Forest
Deforestation is the permanent destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses such as agricultural and farm expansion, urban planning and extractive industries. An estimated 18 million acres of forest, which is roughly the size of Panama, are lost each year, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Thousands of wildlife species rely on the delicate ecosystems created by the richly bio-diverse forest environments. Deforestation and human encroachment displaces these species and forces heightened interaction between people and animals indicating a high potential for disease transmission as we have seen from the toll of Nipah virus, Avian Influenza and SARS. Project Deep Forest seeks identify how and why this is happening.
In the past year, our scientists have begun sampling species for pathogens in each country along a deforestation gradient, i.e., looking at areas with no deforestation, some deforestation, and areas where once pristine forests have been completely removed. In each region, EcoHealth scientists are investigating the number of viruses present in different wildlife groups. Project Deep Forest allows the organization to create outreach via local communities and corporate stakeholders to promote the preservation of natural lands and diminish the devastating effects of land-use change.
EcoHealth Alliance’s economic team has shown that reducing deforestation is cost-effective. For example, reducing emissions from deforestation is considerably less expensive than reducing emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other industrial sources. Additionally, preserving tropical forests helps protect the millions of plant and animal species that are indigenous to tropical forests and in danger of extinction. Keeping forests intact also helps prevent floods and drought by regulating regional rainfall. And because many indigenous people rely on tropical forests for their livelihoods, investments in reducing deforestation provide them with the resources they need for sustainable development without deforestation.