Aquatic Community Interaction Diversity and Mosquito Larvae
AuthorLumpkin, Will Patrick
AdvisorDyer, Lee A
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Mosquitoes comprise a diverse group of small flies (Diptera) in the familyCulicidae which includes an estimated 3,600 described species. Colloquially we knowmosquitoes as biting insects that pose a threat to humans and domestic animals asimportant vectors of disease. Although a minority of the described species of mosquitoesare not known as competent disease vectors, many competent vector species are highlycommon surrounding human habitations. Despite being important flying insects,mosquitoes undergo an entirely aquatic life cycle as developing larvae and pupae.During these developmental stages immature mosquitoes are most vulnerable topredation and competition for resources. Their habitats are highly variable in manyfactors including size, invertebrate diversity, and spatial heterogeneity.My dissertation research focuses on the larval stages of mosquitoes. The mainquestions of my research include: 1. What are the important interactions of co-inhabitinginvertebrates including predators and competitors, with mosquito larvae? 2. Doesenvironmental heterogeneity in the form of plant complexity influence the structure ofinvertebrate diversity in aquatic communities? 3. Does interaction diversity affect theabundance of mosquito larvae? My research includes four complimentary approaches toanswering these questions. First, I conducted a meta-analysis on the use of naturalenemies to control mosquito populations. Second, I developed simulation models to testthe effects of plant, herbivore, and enemy diversity, abundance and diet breadths onsampling interaction diversity in artificial communities. Third, I conducted two identicalmesocosm experiments with experimental manipulations of plant diversity and structuralcomplexity in order to test the effects of those on aquatic invertebrate diversity andiimosquito abundance. Finally, I measured plant diversity and environmentalheterogeneity in unmanipulated aquatic field environments to test the effects of plantdiversity and environmental heterogeneity on invertebrate diversity and mosquitoabundance.The results from my research show several important relationships betweenenvironmental heterogeneity, invertebrate diversity, interaction diversity, and mosquitoabundance. 1. Natural enemy groups including predators, competitors, parasites, andpathogens can have important negative effects on mosquitoes. 2. Increased predator andcompetitor diversities reduce larval mosquito abundance through direct and indirecteffects. 3. Plant diversity and environmental heterogeneity have positive effects oncommunity invertebrate diversity. 5. Greater interaction diversity in aquatic systemsreduces larval mosquito abundance. These results show the importance of protecting andencouraging biodiversity as components of effective larval mosquito control programs.Careful management of aquatic macroyphyte diversity and environmental heterogeneitywill help reduce larval mosquito abundance.