Background: Anthropogenic land use changes have contributed considerably to the rise of emerging and re-emerging mosquito-borne diseases. These diseases appear to be increasing as a result of the novel juxtapositions of habitats and species that can result in new interchanges of vectors, diseases and hosts. We studied whether the mosquito community structure varied between habitats and seasons and whether known disease vectors displayed habitat preferences in tropical Australia.
Methods: Using CDC model 512 traps, adult mosquitoes were sampled across an anthropogenic disturbance gradient of grassland, rainforest edge and rainforest interior habitats, in both the wet and dry seasons. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMS) ordinations were applied to examine major gradients in the composition of mosquito and vector communities.
Results: We captured ~13,000 mosquitoes from 288 trap nights across four study sites. A community analysis identified 29 species from 7 genera. Even though mosquito abundance and richness were similar between the three habitats, the community composition varied significantly in response to habitat type. The mosquito community in rainforest interiors was distinctly different to the community in grasslands, whereas forest edges acted as an ecotone with shared communities from both forest interiors and grasslands. We found two community patterns that will influence disease risk at out study sites, first, that disease vectoring mosquito species occurred all year round. Secondly, that anthropogenic grasslands adjacent to rainforests may increase the probability of novel disease transmission through changes to the vector community on rainforest edges, as most disease transmitting species predominantly occurred in grasslands.
Conclusion: Our results indicate that the strong influence of anthropogenic land use change on mosquito communities could have potential implications for pathogen transmission to humans and wildlife.
Keywords: Deforestation; Edge effects; Land use change; Mosquito community; Rainforest disturbance.