DEFORESTATION has led to an increase in diseases and the destruction of marine life and ecosystems in catchments around Fiji.
Marine consultant Aaron Jenkins revealed this at the Climate Change and Health Symposium held at the University of Fiji last Thursday.
"We did a study of 20 catchments around Fiji and we know that as catchments become more deforested the numbers of species of fish and aquatic-related resources decline significantly. Catchment to reef areas with poorest forest cover, the highest road building and the largest number of alterations have seen increased diseases like leptospirosis post floods — this is especially true for Ba and Nadi," he said.
Mr Jenkins said deforestation also contributed to an increase in the spread of leptospirosis which was an area of major concern.
"Leptospirosis is mainly carried by animals and factors involved in the transmission of this disease would be lots of livestock going into streams and floods increasing the possibility of people and animals being in close proximity with each other, and rat infestation because of deforestation — as areas become more and more deforested we can see an increase in rats moving into urban areas," he said.
Mr Jenkins said further studies were needed to provide a detailed analysis of the spread of diseases in the aftermath of natural disasters to aid local authorities in being better prepared for when events like cyclones and floods did happen.