Humans have altered ecosystems worldwide, and it is important to understand how this land use change impacts infectious disease transmission in humans and animals. We conducted a systematic review 305 scientific articles investigating how specific types of anthropogenic land use change influence infectious disease dynamics. We summarized findings, highlighted common themes, and drew attention to neglected areas of research. There was an increase in publications on this topic over the last 30 years spanning diseases of humans, livestock, and wildlife, including a large number of zoonotic pathogens. Most papers (66.9%) were observational, 30.8% were review or concept papers, and few studies (2.3%) were experimental in nature, with most studies focusing on vector-borne and/or multi-host pathogens. Common land use change types related to disease transmission were deforestation/forest fragmentation/habitat fragmentation, agricultural development/irrigation, and urbanization/suburbanization. In response to anthropogenic change, more than half of the studies (56.9%) documented increased pathogen transmission, 10.4% of studies observed decreased pathogen transmission, 30.4% had variable and complex pathogen responses, and 2.4% showed no detectable changes. Commonly reported mechanisms by which land use change altered infectious disease transmission included alteration of the vector, host, and pathogen niche, changes in host and vector community composition, changes in behavior or movement of vectors and/or hosts, altered spatial distribution of hosts and/or vectors, and socioeconomic factors, and environmental contamination. We discussed observed patterns in the literature and make suggestions for future research directions, emphasizing the importance of ecological and evolutionary theory to understand pathogen responses in changing landscapes.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Allan B. F., H. P. Dutra, L. S. Goessling, K. Barnett, J. M. Chase, R. J. Marquis, G. Pang, G. A. Storch, R. E. Thach, J. L. Orrock (2010). Invasive honeysuckle eradication reduces tick-borne disease risk by altering host dynamics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107(43):18523-18527.
Amo, L., P. Lopez and J. Martin (2007). “Habitat deterioration affects body condition of lizards: A behavioral approach with Iberolacerta cyreni lizards inhabiting ski resorts.” Biological Conservation 135(1): 77-85.
Baeza A, Bouma MJ, Dhiman R, Pascual M (2014) Malaria control under unstable dynamics: reactive vs. climate-based strategies. Acta Tropica 129:42–51
Beldomenico, P. M. and M. Begon (2010). “Disease spread, susceptibility and infection intensity: vicious circles?” Trends Ecol Evol 25(1): 21-27.
Beyer, H. L., K. Hampson, T. Lembo, S. Cleaveland, M. Kaare and D. T. Haydon (2011). “Metapopulation dynamics of rabies and the efficacy of vaccination.” Proc Biol Sci 278(1715): 2182-2190.
Boots, M. and R. G. Bowers (2004). “The evolution of resistance through costly acquired immunity.” Proc Biol Sci 271(1540): 715-723.
Budischak, S. A., A. E. Jolles and V. O. Ezenwa (2012). “Direct and indirect costs of co-infection in the wild: Linking gastrointestinal parasite communities, host hematology, and immune function.” Int J Parasitol Parasites Wildl 1: 2-12.
Burney, D. A. and T. F. Flannery (2005). “Fifty millennia of catastrophic extinctions after human contact.” Trends Ecol Evol 20(7): 395-401.
Ceballos, L. A., M. V. Cardinal, G. M. Vazquez-Prokopec, M. A. Lauricella, M. M. Orozco, R. Cortinas, A. G. Schijman, M. J. Levin, U. Kitron and R. E. Gurtler (2006). “Long-term reduction of Trypanosoma cruzi infection in sylvatic mammals following deforestation and sustained vector surveillance in northwestern Argentina.” Acta Trop 98(3): 286-296.
Chaves, L. F., J. M. Cohen, M. Pascual, M. L. Wilson (2008) Social exclusion modifies climate and deforestation impacts on a vector-borne disease. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 2(2):176.
Colwell, R. K. and T. F. Rangel (2009). “Hutchinson’s duality: the once and future niche.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106 Suppl 2: 19651-19658.
de Castro MC, Monte-Mor RL, Sawyer DO, Singer BH (2006) Malaria risk on the Amazon frontier. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103(7):2452–2457
Dennehy, J. J., N. A. Friedenberg, R. D. Holt and P. E. Turner (2006). “Viral ecology and the maintenance of novel host use.” Am Nat 167(3): 429-439.
Despommier, D., B. R. Ellis and B. A. Wilcox (2006). “The role of ecotones in emerging infectious diseases.” EcoHealth 3(4): 281-289.
Dobson, A. (2004). “Population dynamics of pathogens with multiple host species.” Am Nat 164 Suppl 5: S64-78.
Dobson, A., I. Cattadori, R. D. Holt, R. S. Ostfeld, F. Keesing, K. Krichbaum, J. R. Rohr, S. E. Perkins, P. J. Hudson (2006) Sacred cows and sympathetic squirrels: the importance of biological diversity to human health. PLoS Med 3(6):e231.
Eliseev, L. N., M. V. Strelkova, I. I. Zherikhina (1991) The characteristics of the epidemic activation of a natural focus of zoonotic cutaneous leishmaniasis in places with a sympatric dissemination of Leishmania major, L. turanica and L. gerbilli. Meditsinskaia parazitologiia i parazitarnye bolezni 3:24-29.
Ellis, E. C. and N. Ramankutty (2008). “Putting people in the map: anthropogenic biomes of the world.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6(8): 439-447.
Ezenwa, V. O. and A. E. Jolles (2011). “From host immunity to pathogen invasion: the effects of helminth coinfection on the dynamics of microparasites.” Integr Comp Biol 51(4): 540-551.
Ezenwa, V. O., R. S. Etienne, G. Luikart, A. Beja-Pereira and A. Jolles (2010). “Hidden consequences of living in a wormy world: nematode-induced immune suppression facilitates tuberculosis invasion in African buffalo.” Am Nat 176(5): 613-624.
Ezenwa, V. O., N. M. Gerardo, D. W. Inouye, M. Medina and J. B. Xavier (2012). “Microbiology. Animal behavior and the microbiome.” Science 338(6104): 198-199.
Fenton, A. and A. B. Pedersen (2005). “Community epidemiology framework for classifying disease threats.” Emerging Infectious Diseases 11(12): 1815.
Fokidis, H. B., M. Orchinik and P. Deviche (2009). “Corticosterone and corticosteroid binding globulin in birds: relation to urbanization in a desert city.” Gen Comp Endocrinol 160(3): 259-270.
Foley, J. A., R. Defries, G. P. Asner, C. Barford, G. Bonan, S. R. Carpenter, F. S. Chapin, M. T. Coe, G. C. Daily, H. K. Gibbs, J. H. Helkowski, T. Holloway, E. A. Howard, C. J. Kucharik, C. Monfreda, J. A. Patz, I. C. Prentice, N. Ramankutty and P. K. Snyder (2005). “Global consequences of land use.” Science 309(5734): 570-574.
Goldberg, T. L., T. R. Gillespie, I. B. Rwego, E. L. Estoff and C. A. Chapman (2008). “Forest fragmentation as cause of bacterial transmission among nonhuman primates, humans, and livestock, Uganda.” Emerg Infect Dis 14(9): 1375-1382.
Goudie, A. (2000). The Human Impact on the Natural Environment, 5th ed. Cambridge, The MIT Press
Grieco, J. P., S. Johnson, N. L. Achee, P. Masuoka, K. Pope, E. Rejmankova, E. Vanzie, R. Andre and D. Roberts (2006). “Distribution of Anopheles albimanus, Anopheles vestitipennis, and Anopheles crucians associated with land use in northern Belize.” J Med Entomol 43(3): 614-622.
Hines, A. M., V. O. Ezenwa, P. Cross and J. D. Rogerson (2007). “Effects of supplemental feeding on gastrointestinal parasite infection in elk (Cervus elaphus): preliminary observations.” Vet Parasitol 148(3-4): 350-355.
Jardine, A., P. Speldewinde, M. D. Lindsay, A. Cook, C. A. Johansen and P. Weinstein (2008). “Is there an association between dryland salinity and Ross River virus disease in southwestern Australia?” Ecohealth 5(1): 58-68.
Johnson, P. T., J. M. Chase, K. L. Dosch, R. B. Hartson, J. A. Gross, D. J. Larson, D. R. Sutherland and S. R. Carpenter (2007). “Aquatic eutrophication promotes pathogenic infection in amphibians.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104(40): 15781-15786.
Jolles, A. E., V. O. Ezenwa, R. S. Etienne, W. C. Turner and H. Olff (2008). “Interactions between macroparasites and microparasites drive infection patterns in free-ranging African buffalo.” Ecology 89(8): 2239-2250.
Jones, K. E., N. G. Patel, M. A. Levy, A. Storeygard, D. Balk, J. L. Gittleman and P. Daszak (2008). “Global trends in emerging infectious diseases.” Nature 451(7181): 990-993.
Keesing, F., L. K. Belden, P. Daszak, A. Dobson, C. D. Harvell, R. D. Holt, P. Hudson, A. Jolles, K. E. Jones, C. E. Mitchell, S. S. Myers, T. Bogich and R. S. Ostfeld (2010). “Impacts of biodiversity on the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases.” Nature 468(7324): 647-652.
Klinkenberg, E., F. Konradsen, N. Herrel, M. Mukhtar, W. van der Hoek and F. P. Amerasinghe (2004). “Malaria vectors in the changing environment of the southern Punjab, Pakistan.” Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 98(7): 442-449.
Kowalewski, M. M., J. S. Salzer, J. C. Deutsch, M. Rano, M. S. Kuhlenschmidt and T. R. Gillespie (2011). “Black and gold howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya) as sentinels of ecosystem health: patterns of zoonotic protozoa infection relative to degree of human-primate contact.” Am J Primatol 73(1): 75-83.
Linard, C., P. Lamarque, P. Heyman, G. Ducoffre, V. Luyasu, K. Tersago, S. O. Vanwambeke and E. F. Lambin (2007). “Determinants of the geographic distribution of Puumala virus and Lyme borreliosis infections in Belgium.” Int J Health Geogr 6: 15-15.
Matson, P. A., W. J. Parton, A. G. Power and M. J. Swift (1997). “Agricultural intensification and ecosystem properties.” Science 277(5325): 504-509.
Mayo, C. E., I. A. Gardner, B. A. Mullens, C. M. Barker, A. C. Gerry, A. J. Guthrie and N. J. MacLachlan (2012). “Anthropogenic and meteorological factors influence vector abundance and prevalence of bluetongue virus infection of dairy cattle in California.” Vet Microbiol 155(2-4): 158-164.
McCallum, H. and A. Dobson (2002). “Disease, habitat fragmentation and conservation.” Proc Biol Sci 269(1504): 2041-2049.
Miller, M. A., W. A. Miller, P. A. Conrad, E. R. James, A. C. Melli, C. M. Leutenegger, H. A. Dabritz, A. E. Packham, D. Paradies, M. Harris, J. Ames, D. A. Jessup, K. Worcester and M. E. Grigg (2008). “Type X Toxoplasma gondii in a wild mussel and terrestrial carnivores from coastal California: new linkages between terrestrial mammals, runoff and toxoplasmosis of sea otters.” Int J Parasitol 38(11): 1319-1328.
Mutero, C. M., C. Kabutha, V. Kimani, L. Kabuage, G. Gitau, J. Ssennyonga, J. Githure, L. Muthami, A. Kaida, L. Musyoka, E. Kiarie and M. Oganda (2004). “A transdisciplinary perspective on the links between malaria and agroecosystems in Kenya.” Acta Trop 89(2): 171-186.
Ostfeld, R. S. (2013). “A Candide response to Panglossian accusations by Randolph and Dobson: biodiversity buffers disease.” Parasitology 140(10): 1196-1198.
Patz, J. A., T. K. Graczyk, N. Geller and A. Y. Vittor (2000). “Effects of environmental change on emerging parasitic diseases.” Int J Parasitol 30(12-13): 1395-1405.
Plowright, R., S. Sokolow, M. Gorman, P. Daszek, J. Foley (2008) Causal inference in disease ecology: investigating ecological drivers of disease emergence. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6: 420–429.
Plowright, R. K., P. Foley, H. E. Field, A. P. Dobson, J. E. Foley, P. Eby and P. Daszak (2011). “Urban habituation, ecological connectivity and epidemic dampening: the emergence of Hendra virus from flying foxes (Pteropus spp.).” Proc Biol Sci 278(1725): 3703-3712.
Pongsiri, M. J., J. Roman, V. O. Ezenwa, T. L. Goldberg, H. S. Koren, S. C. Newbold, R. S. Ostfeld, S. K. Pattanayak and D. J. Salkeld (2009). “Biodiversity loss affects global disease ecology.” Bioscience 59(11): 945-954.
Pulliam J. R., J. H. Epstein, J. Dushoff, S. A. Rahman, M. Bunning, A. A. Jamaluddin, A. D. Hyatt, H. E. Field, A. P. Dobson, P. Daszak, the Henipavirus Ecology Research (2012) Agricultural intensification, priming for persistence and the emergence of Nipah virus: a lethal bat-borne zoonosis. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 9(66):89–101.
Randolph, S. E. and A. D. M. Dobson (2012). “Pangloss revisited: a critique of the dilution effect and the biodiversity-buffers-disease paradigm.” Parasitology 139(7): 847-863.
Raoult, D. and V. Roux (1997). “Rickettsioses as paradigms of new or emerging infectious diseases.” Clin Microbiol Rev 10(4): 694-719.
Restif, O., D. T. Hayman, J. R. Pulliam, R. K. Plowright, D. B. George, A. D. Luis, A. A. Cunningham, R. A. Bowen, A. R. Fooks, T. J. O’Shea, J. L. Wood and C. T. Webb (2012). “Model-guided fieldwork: practical guidelines for multidisciplinary research on wildlife ecological and epidemiological dynamics.” Ecol Lett 15(10): 1083-1094.
Salkeld, D. J., K. A. Padgett and J. H. Jones (2013). “A meta-analysis suggesting that the relationship between biodiversity and risk of zoonotic pathogen transmission is idiosyncratic.” Ecol Lett 16(5): 679-686.
Sorensen, A., F. M. van Beest and R. K. Brook (2014). “Impacts of wildlife baiting and supplemental feeding on infectious disease transmission risk: A synthesis of knowledge.” Prev Vet Med 113(4): 356-363.
Suzan, G., E. Marce, J. T. Giermakowski, B. Armien, J. Pascale, J. Mills, G. Ceballos, A. Gomez, A. A. Aguirre, J. Salazar-Bravo, A. Armien, R. Parmenter and T. Yates (2008). “The effect of habitat fragmentation and species diversity loss on hantavirus prevalence in Panama.” Ann N Y Acad Sci 1149: 80-83.
Telfer, S., X. Lambin, R. Birtles, P. Beldomenico, S. Burthe, S. Paterson and M. Begon (2010). “Species interactions in a parasite community drive infection risk in a wildlife population.” Science 330(6001): 243-246.
Tersago, K., A. Schreurs, C. Linard, R. Verhagen, S. Van Dongen and H. Leirs (2008). “Population, environmental, and community effects on local bank vole (Myodes glareolus) Puumala virus infection in an area with low human incidence.” Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 8(2): 235-244.
Tilman, D. (1999). “Global environmental impacts of agricultural expansion: the need for sustainable and efficient practices.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 96(11): 5995-6000.
Vaz, V. C., P. S. D’Andrea, A. M. Jansen (2007) Effects of habitat fragmentation on wild mammal infection by Trypanosoma cruzi. Parasitology 134(12):1785–1793.
Vittor, A. Y., R. H. Gilman, J. Tielsch, G. Glass, T. Shields, W. S. Lozano, V. Pinedo-Cancino and J. A. Patz (2006). “The effect of deforestation on the human-biting rate of Anopheles darlingi, the primary vector of Falciparum malaria in the Peruvian Amazon.” Am J Trop Med Hyg 74(1): 3-11.
Woolhouse, M. E., L. H. Taylor and D. T. Haydon (2001). “Population biology of multihost pathogens.” Science 292(5519): 1109-1112.
Xia, Y., O. N. Bjornstad and B. T. Grenfell (2004). “Measles metapopulation dynamics: a gravity model for epidemiological coupling and dynamics.” Am Nat 164(2): 267-281.
Yasuoka, J. and R. Levins (2007). “Impact of deforestation and agricultural development on anopheline ecology and malaria epidemiology.” American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 76(3): 450-460.
We thank Corrie Brown, Sonia Altizer, Uriel Kitron, David Peterson, and Rick Tarleton for helpful comments on this manuscript. NLG was funded by an EPA STAR Science to Achieve Results Fellowship FP-91669001, Sigma Xi Scientific Research Grant G200803150739, and a UGA Graduate School Dissertation Completion Award. DGS was supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship a UGA Graduate School Dissertation Completion Award and NSF Grant DEB-1020966. Funding sources have not officially endorsed this publication and the views expressed herein may not reflect their views.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Gottdenker, N.L., Streicker, D.G., Faust, C.L. et al. Anthropogenic Land Use Change and Infectious Diseases: A Review of the Evidence. EcoHealth 11, 619–632 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-014-0941-z
- anthropogenic land use change
- infectious diseases
- literature assessment