Report launched into suspected links between outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease and forest fragmentation in Africa

15 October 2015

Working in partnership with the Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA – a Sierra Leone-based non-governmental organisation that has for more than 20 years been working to protect and restore the natural environment in West Africa), the ERM Foundation has produced a report that investigates suspected links between forest fragmentation in Africa and outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

The Environmental Foundation for Africa approached the ERM Foundation at the height of the Ebola crisis to collaborate on this research, after the two organisations had previously worked together on initiatives in Sierra Leone. The report was formally launched in September 2015 by EFA and the ERM Foundation in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

The results from the research are potentially significant and suggest that a specific configuration of forest-fragmentation parameters may increase the likelihood of the Ebola virus passing from its animal host (hypothesised to be bats) into the human population. Central to the research was a GIS modelling exercise that analysed satellite imagery at the locations of seven EVD ‘index cases’ (i.e. patient zero), to gain a clearer understanding of the land-cover conditions in which the initial animal-to-human transmission of the Ebola virus took place. In 6 out of 7 of the cases studied, EVD emerged where and when specific forest fragmentation parameters were within a narrow range of values. While many have hypothesised that changes in vegetative cover can promote outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases, this report documents where specific forest characteristics correlate with EVD outbreaks. The report also analyses bats’ response to fragmented forest landscapes, finding that in such conditions it is more likely for several species, including humans and bats, to come into closer contact than would normally be the case, often in stressed circumstances where immunological defences could be compromised and diseases more readily transmitted.

EFA is now working to formulate a regional, inter-disciplinary focus group to define concrete recommendations to feed into post-Ebola recovery planning, including how to ensure that forest management is thoughtfully and systematically included in impact assessments for all development programmes, and to avoid the fragmentation of large forest blocks which likely serve as refuges for animals that may be vectors of zoonotic diseases.

Read the report Ebola Virus Disease and Forest Fragmentation in Africa (1.7Mb PDF)

Read the one page report summary (196Kb PDF)

The ERM Foundation
The ERM Foundation is the charitable entity of Environmental Resources Management (ERM). The ERM Foundation was established in 1995 to provide fundraising and pro bono technical support for non-profit organizations and social enterprises that work in the fields of conservation and biodiversity, low carbon development, clean water and sanitation, environmental education and empowering women and girls. The ERM Foundation also operates an impact investment fund (the Low Carbon Enterprise Fund) that provides financial and technical support for low carbon entrepreneurs in the developing world. The ERM Foundation is a registered charity in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia.
Learn more about the ERM Foundation

The Environmental Foundation for Africa
The Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA) is a Sierra Leone-based non-governmental organization, established in 1992. EFA works to facilitate the establishment of community-led programs for sustainable environmental management as a basis for poverty alleviation in Africa. It seeks to achieve this through environmental advocacy, awareness and education programs, and undertaking practical activities in partnership with communities and other entities. EFA is also a registered charity in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Learn more about the EFA

Ebola Virus Disease and Forest Fragmentation in Africa

Read the EFA and ERM Foundation's report that investigates suspected links between forest fragmentation in Africa and outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease.

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