Land Use Change and Infectious Diseases

Principal Investigator(s): 

Andrew Dobson, Nita Bharti, and Matt Bonds


Ethiopian urban gardenLand-use change is rapidly converting forests and savannas into ‘anthro-habitat’: land whose primary focus is the production of agriculture, shopping or sports facilities, or housing estates; all of which provide some direct benefit to the human economy. But how do these changes modify habitats in ways that change the probability of infectious disease outbreaks? Habitat conversion significantly alters the interactions between the environment and populations of humans and domestic livestock. The resulting changes in the infection dynamics of many vector- and water-borne disease systems could create new opportunities for pathogen infections, or could modify the dynamics towards pathogen reduction or eradication.

In this working group we undertake a series of synthetic examinations that bring together geographical data on land-use change with data on disease and vector distributions and host abundance in order to develop mathematical and heuristic models of disease risk. The goal is to understand the impact of land use change on disease ecology so that development planners can minimize disease risk and maximize direct and indirect economic benefits. Our focus is on the classic diseases of poverty: malaria, schistosomiasis, cholera, Chagas disease and African trypanosomiasis. Our approaches will build upon the large sets of data available for these pathogens to develop synthetic model frameworks that can produce locally specific, anthropologically appropriate, actionable recommendations for minimizing disease risk. This framework will ultimately be adaptable to examine the interactions between land use change and a broad variety of pathogens.

More information about this project.


This work is supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a Center funded by NSF (Grant #EF-0553768), the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the State of California and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC).