Current unprecedented declines in biodiversity reduce the ability of ecological communities to provide many fundamental ecosystem services. Here we evaluate evidence that reduced biodiversity affects the transmission of infectious diseases of humans, other animals and plants. In principle, loss of biodiversity could either increase or decrease disease transmission. However, mounting evidence indicates that biodiversity loss frequently increases disease transmission. In contrast, areas of naturally high biodiversity may serve as a source pool for new pathogens. Overall, despite many remaining questions, current evidence indicates that preserving intact ecosystems and their endemic biodiversity should generally reduce the prevalence of infectious diseases.
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