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Medical Disease and deforestation

  1. Apr 5, 2008 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    There has long been a claim that old trees [hundreds of years old] commonly found in rainforests can harbor diseases that are released into the local environment when the trees are cut and burned. Humans are then exposed to these agents thus creating the potential for pandemics.

    Is there any truth in this claim?

    [Wasn't sure if this was best suited for biology, medical sciences, or earth sciences]
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 5, 2008 #2
    Its not so much that new diseases are being set free, as it is normal diseases have a new road to travel on. These large areas of clear cut swatches leave ponds and puddles for Misquotes to breed, and can bring massive clouds of Malaria infested bugs into new areas.

    And of course, once humans bring their diseases into the openings, they can spread like wild fire, with natives who have no natural immune to them.
     
  4. Apr 5, 2008 #3

    Moonbear

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    I've never heard the claim. It seems a little odd, especially in the case of burning, since high temperatures would be more likely to kill an pathogens.

    Perhaps people not indiginous to the area contract illnesses readily when they enter to clear the land simply because they don't have prior exposure to the local pathogens, and that is the source of the rumor? It's about the only thing that would fit the scenario that I could think of off the top of my head.

    Edit: Seems hypatia beat me to it. :biggrin:
     
  5. Apr 5, 2008 #4

    Evo

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    oooh, oooh, I can use this little tidbit on old trees that I watched the other day. This tree is estimated to be 2,700 years old.

    http://www.shannontech.com/ParkVision/Yosemite/Yosemite11.html
     
  6. Apr 5, 2008 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    Well, to be fair, just the process of cutting the trees down spreads large amounts of material that never gets burned.

    Would it be possible for viruses or bacteria to be stored in a tree for a long period of time? Or, could it be possible that certain trees can concentrate these agents, say by acting as a breeding ground, so that the normal levels of exposure by humans is vastly increased when the trees are cut?

    I realize that there are secondary reasons why disease would follow deforestation, but I was curious about the particular claim that the trees themselves can store and release disease causing agents.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2008
  7. Apr 6, 2008 #6
    As far as I know, no one has ever discovered a unknown disease living on or in a tree, that could harm a human.
     
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