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Title: Land reversion and zoonotic spillover risk
Deforestation alters wildlife communities and modifies human–wildlife interactions, often increasing zoonotic spillover potential. When deforested land reverts to forest, species composition differences between primary and regenerating (secondary) forest could alter spillover risk trajectory. We develop a mathematical model of land-use change, where habitats differ in their relative spillover risk, to understand how land reversion influences spillover risk. We apply this framework to scenarios where spillover risk is higher in deforested land than mature forest, reflecting higher relative abundance of highly competent species and/or increased human–wildlife encounters, and where regenerating forest has either very low or high spillover risk. We find the forest regeneration rate, the spillover risk of regenerating forest relative to deforested land, and how rapidly regenerating forest regains attributes of mature forest determine landscape-level spillover risk. When regenerating forest has a much lower spillover risk than deforested land, reversion lowers cumulative spillover risk, but instaneous spillover risk peaks earlier. However, when spillover risk is high in regenerating and cleared habitats, landscape-level spillover risk remains high, especially when cleared land is rapidly abandoned then slowly regenerates to mature forest. These results suggest that proactive wildlife management and awareness of human exposure risk in regenerating forests could be important tools for spillover mitigation.  more » « less
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Royal Society Open Science
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National Science Foundation
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