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Title: Mathematical and behavioural ecology of mosquitoes in response to environmental change
Author: Heath, Katherine
ISNI:       0000 0004 8507 733X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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Mosquito-borne disease presents an enormous global health challenge. Malaria remains the leading cause of stillbirth, dengue fever affects over 300 million people each year and chikungunya has caused numerous large outbreaks over the last two decades. Mosquito-borne diseases continue to affect some of the most socioeconomically disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society; higher levels of mosquito-borne disease occur in developing regions and disproportionately affect children. Rapid changes in climate, land use and human movement all have consequences for the ecology of mosquitoes and, consequently, the diseases they spread. Incidentally, it is thought that rapid global environmental and climate change are likely to most severely affect developing nations. Therefore, it is imperative that mosquito control initiatives acknowledge the effects of environmental change upon mosquito life history to have maximum impact. In this thesis I endeavour to understand some of the mechanisms by which environmental heterogeneity and environmental change affect mosquito populations. In Chapter 1, I introduce important aspects of mosquito ecology and suggest primary mechanisms by which environmental change affects mosquito ecology. Chapter 2 presents a model of Aedes aegypti population dynamics in response to climate change in Brazil. The model estimated mosquito populations to increase across most of Brazil as a consequence of changes in temperature and precipitation. Seasonal patterns in mosquito populations were also predicted to be disrupted. Understanding the finer details of the effects of environmental change on specific mosquito life-history traits is also imperative. This is because (a) environmental perturbation has unimodal effects at multiple life-cycle stages and (b) mathematical population models must be accurately parameterised to reflect biological traits. Chapter 3 considers one such trait - larval density dependence - and demonstrates that nutritional availability modifies density dependence in Aedes aegypti. Therefore, density dependence in Aedes aegypti larvae is a multi-dimensional process that requires mechanistic empirical study designs. In Chapter 4 I present a methodological approach by which environmental heterogeneity can be accounted for in models of mosquito population dynamics, using Aedes polynesiensis in French Polynesia as a study system. I demonstrate that different patterns of environmental change can have spatially non-linear effects upon mosquito populations. In Chapter 5, I synthesise the preceding findings and place them in a broader ecological context. For successful mosquito control, there must be extensive empirical research and theoretical modelling undertaken to catalogue the ways in which environmental change affects mosquito ecology. This thesis endeavours to provide some movement towards this. However, the extent to which future mosquito-borne disease outbreaks is mitigated depends more than ever upon what we do now to mitigate damaging changes in land use and climate.
Supervisor: Bonsall, Michael ; Wilson, Anthony Sponsor: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available