Introduction to land-use change

14 november, 2023

Land-use change, driven by factors such as urbanization, agriculture expansion, and deforestation, can have significant impacts on human health. Here are some examples illustrating the connections between land-use change and human well-being:

  1. Urbanization and Respiratory Health:
    • Scenario: Rapid urbanization leads to increased construction activities, industrialization, and transportation infrastructure development.
    • Impact: Elevated levels of air pollution, including particulate matter and pollutants from vehicles and industries, can contribute to respiratory issues such as asthma and respiratory infections among urban populations.
  2. Agricultural Expansion and Pesticide Exposure:
    • Scenario: Expansion of agricultural land leads to increased use of pesticides and fertilizers.
    • Impact: Direct exposure to agricultural chemicals can result in adverse health effects for nearby communities, including pesticide poisoning, respiratory issues, and long-term health risks such as cancer.
  3. Deforestation and Infectious Diseases:
    • Scenario: Large-scale deforestation disrupts natural ecosystems and brings humans into closer contact with wildlife.
    • Impact: Increased risk of zoonotic diseases as the proximity between humans and wildlife rises, facilitating the transmission of infectious diseases such as malaria, Lyme disease, and Ebola.
  4. Land Degradation and Food Security:
    • Scenario: Poor land management practices lead to soil erosion, loss of fertility, and reduced agricultural productivity.
    • Impact: Decline in crop yields and nutritional quality of food, contributing to food insecurity, malnutrition, and associated health issues.
  5. Urban Heat Island Effect and Heat-Related Illnesses:
    • Scenario: Urbanization results in the creation of urban heat islands, where cities experience higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas.
    • Impact: Increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves in urban environments can lead to heat-related illnesses, especially in vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
  6. Land Use Change and Water Quality:
    • Scenario: Changes in land use, such as deforestation or urban expansion, affect water runoff patterns and increase the risk of water pollution.
    • Impact: Contamination of water sources with pollutants from urban areas or agricultural runoff can lead to waterborne diseases, affecting human health through consumption or contact with contaminated water.

Addressing the health implications of land-use change requires an integrated and interdisciplinary approach that considers environmental, social, and economic factors. Sustainable land management practices, urban planning, and policies that prioritize both human well-being and ecosystem health are essential for mitigating adverse health outcomes associated with land-use changes.