In their in-depth investigative series, Reuters journalists consulted with renowned scientists, including GEOG Professor Matthew Hansen, to delve into the alarming connection between the destruction of wild areas and the heightened risk of pandemics.
The resulting five-part story, co-written by Professor Deborah Nelson at UMD’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, relied on various data sources, including Global Forest Change data to assess tree loss. The dataset by Hansen, Potapov, Moore, Hancher et al is available on Global Land Discovery and Analysis.
Professor Nelson said that UMD data was key to their analysis, which looked at outbreaks of bat-borne viruses over the past 50 years and predicted the places where the next outbreaks are more likely to happen. Tree loss and other conditions, such as precipitation, temperature and land cover, can create an environment that is more conducive for viruses to jump from bats to humans.
The investigative series underscores the importance of understanding the ecological factors and human activities that contribute to the risk of bat-borne viruses spilling over into human populations, and highlights the need for proactive measures to prevent and mitigate future pandemics.
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