Socio-ecological mechanisms structuring mosquito communities in a temperate urban landscape
The ecology of invasive species and infectious disease are signature topics in coupled natural human systems research. Human activities have facilitated the resurgence of many vector-borne diseases, including many transmitted by mosquitoes, by creating habitat and allowing vectors and pathogens to be transported worldwide. In human dominated landscapes, social factors interact with the biophysical environment to create a complex and often hard to predict, socio-ecological context for vector populations and associated disease risk. Here we present three years of data on mosquito community structure and regulating processes across neighborhoods with diverse household income and education levels (socio-economic status) in Baltimore, Maryland. In each year, existing juvenile habitat and adult mosquitoes were sampled regularly between May and October across 35 focal blocks (~1400 parcels) to assess the hypotheses that (1) vector population processes at the scale of individual neighborhoods are important and (2) neighborhood biophysical structure related to socio-economic status influences mosquito production and human biting risk.
Despite being located within dispersal distance of common mosquito species, population dynamics were distinct at the neighborhood scale. Adult mosquito density was up to three-times greater in seasonal samples from sites in neighborhoods classified as low socio-economic status. This was predominantly driven by high abundances of one invasive species, Aedes albopictus. Three other species commonly found were more equally distributed across neighborhoods, including predominant West Nile virus vectors. Our work further examines potential mechanisms generating spatio-temporal heterogeneity in abundance and species composition. For example, low income neighborhoods supported more persistent juvenile habitat both within and across seasons. However, human behavior, especially during extreme weather was an important driver of population abundances and mosquito community composition. Bloodmeal analyses to identify differences in host use across sites are in process. Finally, this work has relied on diverse engagement strategies with residents and local organizations, and we will highlight some examples of how this has influenced both research and application goals.