Habitat Loss and the Risk of Disease Outbreak

Barbier, Edward B. “Habitat loss and the risk of disease outbreak.” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management (2021): 102451.

Evidence suggests that emerging infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, originate from wildlife species, and that land-use change is an important pathway for pathogen transmission to humans. We first focus on zoonotic disease spillover and the rate at which primary human cases appear, demonstrating that a potential outbreak is directly related to the area of wildlife habitat. We then develop a model of the costs and benefits of land conversion that includes the effect of habitat size on the risk of disease outbreak. Our model and numerical simulations show that incorporating this risk requires more wildlife habitat conservation in the long run, and how much more should be conserved will depend on the initial habitat size. If the area is too small, then no conversion should take place. Any policy to control habitat loss, such as a tax imposed on the rents from converted land, should also vary with habitat area.

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