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Oct 1998

Epidemics vs. intact rainforest

The destruction of the tropical rainforest is often accompanied by the outbreak of new unknown diseases. An unknown virus, for example, was discovered in the blood of the workmen who cut the road from Belém to Brasília through the jungle in 1950. Subsequently, 11,000 people fell ill with high fever and muscle pains. And the construction of the railtrack from Lima to La Oroya in Peru resulted in an outbreak of the so-called 'Oroya fever'. The origin of the Aids virus, too, is thought to lie in the tropical rainforest.

The high biodiversity of the rainforest also promotes a high potential for unknown viruses – which can be set free by the ecological destabilisation of these areas. In Latin America, the extinction of big cats and the expansion of agriculture led to a massive increase of rodents, and hence of the Machupo virus. Other epidemics, like the Rift Valley fever, can be traced to the spreading of huge cattle herds and the explosion of mosquito populations that often accompanies clearfelling. 'A change of host, for example from rodent to human,' says virologist Kurt Roth of the Georg-Speyer-Haus, an Aids research institute in Frankfurt, 'is favoured by a preceding mass increase of the virus population because the chances of successful mutations are growing too.'

source: GEO [German equivalent to National Geographic]

Oct 1998

Prehistoric forest discovered near London

Prehistoric forest discovered near London

A mile and a half of Neolithic prehistoric forest has been discovered on the south bank of the Thames at Erith on the outskirts of south-east London. The crumbling remains of oak, ash, alder, Scots pine and yew are thought to date from the Neolithic, and to represent a wooded island between two channels … Bronze Age pottery has been found overlaying the forest remains, and an early Neolithic wooden club, made of oak, about 2ft 6in long, which has been radiocarbon-dated to 3630-3350BC. The excavations of the Thames Archaeological Survey are directed by Mike Webber.

source: British Archaeology, Oct 1998

Oct 2001

Return of the wolf to Germany

The wolf, 'the friend of the forest' (because it regulates the deer populations which everywhere destroy tree seedlings), is making its slow return into Central Europe. From territories in northern Russia as well as the Carpathian Mountains in Romania and south-western Ukraine it moves via Poland into Germany, while some Italian wolves from the Abbruzo mountains migrate into south-eastern France.

'For the first time [in 150 years] wild wolves have reared their young in Germany,' says Frank Moerschel, biologist of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), referring to the wolf family (wolf pairs mate for life) that made its home on the area of a military training area near the Polish and Czech borders. 'The site is situated exactly on one of the ancient wolf tracks,' explains an enthusiastic Michael Gruschwitz of the Environmental Ministry of Saxony, 'a huge area – absolutely quiet and very rich in wildlife.'

source: Der Spiegel [German news magazine], no. 45, 2001
string: Beaver is coming back to Scotland, Return of the European bison