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Climate change is great for mosquitoes

A recent study led by researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has found that a warmer climate could lead to an increase in mosquito populations, as it becomes more difficult for their predators to control their numbers.

Climate change and mosquito populations

The researchers discovered that rising temperatures, often associated with climate change, can reduce the effectiveness of mosquito larvae predators in controlling mosquito populations.

Warmer temperatures accelerate the development time of the larvae. This, in turn, decreases the window of time available for dragonflies, their natural predators, to consume them. As a result, the study suggests that nearly twice as many mosquito larvae could reach adulthood in a warmer climate.

The researchers conducted their investigation in riverine rock pools at Belle Isle along the James River in Richmond. Even in the presence of their natural predators, warmer temperature pools were found to have a higher number of aquatic mosquito larvae.

It is important to note that the native rock pool mosquito studied in this research is not a significant disease vector. However, these findings could have implications for similar species, such as the invasive Asian rock pool mosquito, which do act as vectors for diseases like West Nile or Zika virus.

Climate, mosquitoes and disease

Lead researcher of the study, Andrew T. Davidson, Ph.D., shared his insights, saying, “We might see larger populations of everyone’s least favorite bug, mosquitoes. While the mosquito larvae we studied here are the North American rock pool mosquito, these findings likely apply to species of mosquito that do act as vectors for diseases like West Nile or even Zika virus.”

Davidson conducted this research as part of his Ph.D. program in VCU’s Center for Integrative Life Sciences Education.

The study also emphasizes the important role of predators in stabilizing ecosystems and food webs. Specifically, the researchers focused on the interactions between dragonfly nymphs and mosquito larvae.

Prior to conducting field work, the study was based on concepts of thermal physiology and short-term laboratory experiments, which generated predictive models of the relationship between predators, prey, and temperature in the field. Ultimately, the field study provided empirical evidence to validate these models in a natural environment.

In summary, this research sheds light on the impact of climate change on mosquito populations and highlights the need for further studies to better understand the consequences of rising temperatures on the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

By uncovering the intricate predator-prey dynamics and demonstrating the influence of temperature on these interactions, this study lays the foundation for future research on effective mosquito control strategies in a changing climate.

The full study was published in the journal Ecological Society of America.


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