Human practices promote presence and abundance of disease-transmitting mosquito species

Maarten Schrama, Ellard R. Hunting, Brianna R. Beechler, Milehna M. Guarido, Danny Govender, Wiebe Nijland, Maarten van ‘t Zelfde, Marietjie Venter, Peter M. van Bodegom & Erin E. Gorsich


Humans alter the environment at unprecedented rates through habitat destruction, nutrient pollution and the application of agrochemicals. This has recently been proposed to act as a potentially significant driver of pathogen-carrying mosquito species (disease vectors) that pose a health risk to humans and livestock. Here, we use a unique set of locations along a large geographical gradient to show that landscapes disturbed by a variety of anthropogenic stressors are consistently associated with vector-dominated mosquito communities for a wide range of human and livestock infections. This strongly suggests that human alterations to the environment promote the presence and abundance of disease vectors across large spatial extents. As such, it warrants further studies aimed at unravelling mechanisms underlying vector prevalence in mosquito communities, and opens up new opportunities for preventative action and predictive modelling of vector borne disease risks in relation to degradation of natural ecosystems.