Background: The Anopheles dirus complex includes efficient malaria vectors of the Asian forested zone. Studies suggest ecological and biological differences between the species of the complex but variations within species suggest possible environmental influences. Behavioural variation might determine vector capacity and adaptation to changing environment. It is thus necessary to clarify the species distributions and the influences of environment on behavioural heterogeneity.
Methods: A literature review highlights variation between species, influences of environmental drivers, and consequences on vector status and control. The localisation of collection sites from the literature and from a recent project (MALVECASIA) produces detailed species distributions maps. These facilitate species identification and analysis of environmental influences.
Results: The maps give a good overview of species distributions. If species status partly explains behavioural heterogeneity, occurrence and vectorial status, some environmental drivers have at least the same importance. Those include rainfall, temperature, humidity, shade, soil type, water chemistry and moon phase. Most factors are probably constantly favourable in forest. Biological specificities, behaviour and high human-vector contact in the forest can explain the association of this complex with high malaria prevalence, multi-drug resistant Plasmodium falciparum and partial control failure of forest malaria in Southeast Asia.
Conclusion: Environmental and human factors seem better than species specificities at explaining behavioural heterogeneity. Although forest seems essential for mosquito survival, adaptations to orchards and wells have been recorded. Understanding the relationship between landscape components and mosquito population is a priority in foreseeing the influence of land-cover changes on malaria occurrence and in shaping control strategies for the future.