Vol. 3 No. 2 (2019)
Peer Reviewed Articles

Felling trees, furthering malaria: links between deforestation and disease in developing nations

Kelly Austin
Lehigh University
This image of the cover of this issue of The Journal of Population and Sustainability has the title in block letters on a grey-green background.

Published 2019-06-01


  • malaria,
  • deforestation,
  • land-use change,
  • rural migration,
  • population growth

How to Cite

Austin, K. (2019). Felling trees, furthering malaria: links between deforestation and disease in developing nations. The Journal of Population and Sustainability, 3(2), 13–32. https://doi.org/10.3197/jps.2019.3.2.13


Malaria represents a leading illness and cause of death throughout areas of the Global South. Since malaria is transmitted through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito, environmental conditions are paramount in understanding malaria vulnerabilities. A burgeoning area of research connects anthropogenic deforestation and subsequent land-use changes to the expansion of mosquito habitats and malaria outbreaks. This paper explores those literatures, and also examines the drivers of deforestation in the Global South to demonstrate how population pressures, agricultural production, and rural migration patterns underlie motivations for deforestation and land transformation in poorer countries.


  1. Afrane, Y.A., Little, T.J., Lawson, B.W., Githeko, A.K., Yan, G., 2008. Deforestation and vectorial capacity of Anopheles gambiae Giles mosquitoes in malaria transmission, Kenya. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 14(10), 1553-1538.
  2. Afrane,Y.A., Githeko, A.K., Yan, G., 2012. The ecology of Anopheles mosquitoes under climate change: case studies from the effects of deforestation in East African highlands. Annuals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1249, 204-210.
  3. Austin, K.F., 2013. Export agriculture is feeding malaria: A cross-national examination of the environmental and social causes of malaria prevalence. Population and Environment, 35(2), 133-158.
  4. Austin, K.F., Rana, P., Bellinger, M., 2017. Deforestation breeds malaria: Environmental change and infectious disease in poor nations. AIMS Environmental Science, a special issue on The Environmental Determinants of Infectious Diseases, 4(2), 217-231.
  5. Barbieri, A.F., Sawyer, D.O., Soares-Filh, B.S., 2005. Population and land use effects on malaria prevalence in the southern Brazilian Amazon. Human Ecology, 33(6), 847-874.
  6. Barros, F.S.M., Honório, N.A., 2015. Deforestation and malaria on the Amazon frontier: Larval clustering of Anopheles darlingi determines focal distribution of malaria. American Journal of Tropical Medicine, 93(5), 939-953.
  7. Basurko, C., Demattei, C., Han-Sze, R., Grenier, C., Joubert, M., Nacher, M., Carme, B., 2013. Deforestation, agriculture and farm jobs: A good recipe for Plasmodium vivax in French Guiana. Malaria Journal, 12(90), 1-6.
  8. Bates I., Fenton C., Gruber J., et al., 2004. Vulnerability to malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS infection and disease. Part II: determinants operating at environmental and institutional level. Lancet Infect Diseases, 4: 368-375.
  9. Bauch, S.C., Birkenbach, A.M., Pattanayak, S.K., Sills, E.O., 2015. Public health impacts of ecosystem change in the Brazilian Amazon. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(24), 7414-7419.
  10. Bonneaud, C., Sepil, I., Milá, B., Buermann, W., Pollinger, J., Sehgal, R.N.M., Valkiu-nas, G., Iezhova, T.A., Saatchi, S., Smith, T.B., 2009. The Prevalence of Avian Plasmodium Is Higher in Undisturbed Tropical Forests of Cameroon. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 25(4), 439-447.
  11. Caldas de Castro, M., Monte-Mór, R.L., Sawyer, D.O., Singer, B.H., 2006. Malaria risk on the Amazon frontier. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103(7), 2452-2457.
  12. Carr, D. 2009. Population and Deforestation: Why rural migration matters. Progress in Human Geography, 33(3), 355-378.
  13. Carr, D.L., Suter, L., Barbieri, A., 2005. Population dynamics and tropical deforestation: State of the debate and conceptual challenges. Population and Environment, 27, 1: 89-113.
  14. Center for Disease Control (CDC), 2019. About Malaria, Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/disease.html
  15. Confalonieri, U.E.C., Margonari, C., Quintao, A.F., 2014. Environmental change and the dynamics of parasitic diseases in the Amazon. Acta Tropica, 129, 33-41.
  16. Clark, M., 2012. Deforestation in Madagascar: Consequences of populations growth and unsustainable agricultural processes. Global Majority E-Journal, 3(1), 61-71.
  17. DeFries, R.S., Rudel, T., Uriarte, M., Hansen, M., 2010. Deforestation driven by urban population growth and agricultural trade in the twenty-first century. Nature Geoscience, 3, 1: 178-181.
  18. Derraik, J.G.B., Slaney, D., 2007. Anthropogenic Environmental Change, Mosquito-borne Diseases and Human Health in New Zealand. EcoHealth, 4(1), 72-81.
  19. Dolisca, F., McDaniel, J.M., Teeter, L.D., Jolly, C.M., 2007. Land tenure, population pressure, and deforestation in Haiti: The case of Froet des Pins Reserve. Journal of Forest Economics, 13: 277-289.
  20. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 2018. State of the World’s Forests. Available at: http://www.fao.org/state-of-forests/en/
  21. Guerra, C.A., Snow, R.W., Hay, S.I., 2006. A global assessment of closed forests, deforestation and malaria risk. Annual Tropical Medicine Parasitology, 100(3), 189-204.
  22. Hahn, M.B., Gangnon, R.E., Barcellos, C., Asner, G.P., Patz, J.A., 2014. Influence of deforestation, logging, and fire on malaria in the Brazilian Amazon. PLOS ONE, 9(1), 85725.
  23. Hastings I.M., Ward S.A., 2005. Coartem (artemether-lumefantrine) in Africa: the beginning of the end? Journal of Infectious Diseases, 192: 1303-1304.
  24. Himeidan, Y.E., Kweka, E.J., 2012. Malaria in East African highlands during the past 30 years: impact of environmental changes. Frontiers in Physiology, 3(1), 1-11.
  25. Jha, S., Bawa, K.S., 2005. Population growth, human development, and deforestation in biodiversity hotspots. Conservation Biology, 20(3), 906-912.
  26. Kong, R., Diepart, J., Castella, J., Lestrelin, G., Tivet, F., Belmain, E., Bégué, A., 2019. Understanding the drivers of deforestation and agricultural transformations in the Northwestern uplands of Cambodia. Applied Geography, 102(1), 84-98.
  27. Kweka, E.J., Kimaro, E.E., Munga, S., 2016. Effect of deforestation and land use changes on mosquito productivity and development in Western Kenya highlands: implication for malaria risk. Frontiers in Public Health, 4(1), 1-9.
  28. Lima, J.M.T., Vittor, A., Rifai, S., Valle, D., 2017. Does deforestation promote or inhibit malaria transmission in the Amazon? A systematic review and critical appraisal of current evidence. Philosophical Transitions Royal Society, 372, 1-11.
  29. Lopez-Carr, D., Burgdorfer, J., 2013. Deforestation drivers: Population, migration, and tropical land use. Environment, 55, 1: 3-11.
  30. Mayxay M., Pukrittayakamee S., Newton P.N., et al., 2000. Mixed-species malaria infections in humans. Trends Parasitol, 20: 233-240.
  31. Myers, S.S., Gaffikin, L., Golden, C.D., Ostfeld, R.S., Redford, K.H., Ricketts, T.H., Turner. W.R., Osofsky, S.A., 2013. Human health impacts of ecosystem alteration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(47), 18753-18760.
  32. Nath, M.J., Bora, A., Talukdar, P.K., Das, N.J., Dhiman, S., Baruah, I., Singh, L., 2012. A longitudinal study of malaria associated with deforestation inSonitpur district of Assam, India. Geocarto International, 27(1), 79-88.
  33. National Geographic, 2018. Deforestation explained. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/
  34. Neafsey D.E., Waterhouse R.M., Abai M.R., et al., 2015. Highly evolvable malaria vectors: the genomes of 16 Anopheles mosquitoes. Science 347: 1258522.
  35. Norris, D.E., 2004. Mosquito-borne diseases as a consequence of land use change. EcoHealth, 1, 19-24.
  36. Olson, S.H., Gangnon, R., Silveira, G.A., Patz, J.A., 2010. Deforestation and malaria in Mancio Lima County, Brizil. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 16(7), 1108-1115.
  37. O’Sullivan, L., Jardine, A., Cook, A., Weinstein, P., 2008. Deforestation, mosquitoes, and ancient Rome: Lessons for today. BioScience, 58(8), 756-760.
  38. Pascual, M., Ahumada, J. A., Chaves, L. F., Rodo, X., Bouma, M., 2006. Malaria resurgence in the East African highlands: temperature trends revisited. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103, 5829-5834.
  39. Pattanayak, S., Dickinson K., Corey, C., Murray, B., Sills, E., Kramer, R., 2006. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy, 2(2), 45-56.
  40. Patz, J.A., Olson, S.H., 2006. Malaria risk and temperature: Influences from global climate change and local land use practices. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103(15), 5635-5636.
  41. Population Action International, 2011. Why population matters to forests. Available at: https://pai.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/PAI-1293-FORESTS_compressed.pdf
  42. Rudel, T., 2005. Tropical forests: Regional paths of destruction and regeneration in the late twentieth century. New York: Columbia University Press.
  43. Saxena, R., Nagpal, B.N., Singh, V.P., Srivastava, A., Dev, V., Sharma, M.C., Gupta, H.P., Tomar, A.S., Sharma, S., Gupta, S.K., 2014. Impact of deforestation on known malaria vectors in Sonitpur district of Assam, India. Journal of Vector Borne Diseases, 51(1), 211-215.
  44. Silva-Nunesa, D.M., Moreno, M., Conn, J.E., Gamboa, D., Abelesb, S., Vinetz, J.M., Ferreira, U.F., 2012. Amazonian malaria: Asymptomatic human reservoirs, diagnostic challenges, environmentally driven changes in mosquito vector populations, and the mandate for sustainable control strategies. Acta Tropica, 121(2), 281-291.
  45. Stratton L., O’Neill M.S., Kruk M.E., et al., 2008. The persistent problem of malaria: Addressing the fundamental causes of a global killer. Social Science and Medicine, 67: 854-862.
  46. Terrazas, W.C.M., Sampaio, V.S., Barros de Castro, D., Pinto, R.C., Cláudio de Albuquerque, B., Sadahiro, M., Augusto dos Passos, R., Braga, J.U., 2015. Deforestation, drainage network, indigenous status, and geographical differences of malaria in the State of Amazonas. Malaria Journal, 14(379), 1-9.
  47. Vanwambeke, S.O., Lambin, E.F., Eichhorn, M.P., Flasse, S.P., Harbach, R.E., Oskam, L., Somboon, P., van Beers, S., van Benthem, B.H.B., Walton, C., Butlin, R.K., 2007. Impact of land-use change on dengue and malaria in Northern Thailand. EcoHealth, 4(1), 37–51.
  48. Vittor, A.Y., Gilman, R.H., Tielsch, J., Glass, G., Shields, T., Lozano, W.S., Pinedo-Cancino, V., Patz, J.A., 2006. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 74(1), 3–11.
  49. Vittor, A.Y., Pan, W., Gilman, R.H., Tielsch, J., Glass, G., Shields, T., Sánchez-Lozano, W., Pinedo, V.V., Salas-Cobos, E., Flores, S., Patz, J.A., 2009. Linking Deforestation to Malaria in the Amazon: Characterization of the Breeding Habitat of the Principal Malaria Vector, Anopheles darlingi. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 81(1), 5–12.
  50. Wayant, N.M., Maldonado, D., Rojas de Arias, A., Cousiño, B., Goodin, D.G., 2010. Correlation between normalized difference vegetation index and malaria in a subtropical rain forest undergoing rapid anthropogenic alteration. Geospatial Health, 4(2), 179-190.
  51. Weisse, M., Goldman, E.D., 2017. Global tree cover loss rose 51 percent in 2016. World Resources Institute. Available at: https://www.wri.org/blog/2017/10/global-tree-cover-loss-rose-51-percent-2016
  52. World Health Organization (WHO), 2016. Preventing disease through healthy environments: A global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/204585/9789241565196_eng.pdf;jsessionid=99A6374A6F8E23DF4F2EA4C34F7F1BA5?sequence=1
  53. World Health Organization (WHO), 2019. Malaria. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/malaria
  54. Yanoviak, S.P., Paredes, J.E.R., Lounibos, L.P., Weaver, S.C., 2006. Deforestation Alters Phytotelm Habitat Availability and Mosquito Production in the Peruvian Amazon. Ecological Applications, 16(5), 1954-1864.
  55. Yasuoka, J., Levins, R., 2009. Impact of deforestation and agricultural development on Anopheline ecology and malaria epidemiology. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 76(3), 450-460.