Taking the bite out of wetlands: managing mosquitos and the socio-ecological value of wetlands for wellbeing (WetlandLIFE).

This project is funded as part of the Human Health & Wellbeing Goal of the Valuing Nature Programme.

Principal Investigator

  • Dr T Acott, University of Greenwich, Dept of History, Politics & Social Sciences

Co-Investigators

  • Professor G Gibson - University of Greenwich, Natural Resources Institute
  • Professor RA Cheke - University of Greenwich, Natural Resources Institute
  • Dr A R Graves - Cranfield University, Sch of Energy, Environment and Agrifood
  • Professor P Coates - University of Bristol, School of Humanities
  • Professor N Ravenscroft - University of Brighton, School of Environment and Technology
  • Professor A Church - University of Brighton, School of Environment and Technology

Project Summary

Interest in the health and wellbeing impacts of wetlands has increased in the UK, in the context of both short and long term responses to extreme weather events and climate change. This is reflected in the UK Wetland Vision (Hume, 2008) that identifies a need to 'make wetlands more relevant to people's lives by better understanding and harnessing the benefits provided by naturally-functioning rivers and wetlands' (p.7). Expansion of wetlands can bring many benefits but it can also increase potential for mosquito-borne disease. There is a lack of knowledge about the consequences of wetland expansion for disease risk. This knowledge gap opens up space for speculation in the press and media about the perceived problems of 'killer' mosquitoes spreading across England, which can in turn fuel community unease and opposition to wetland creation and expansion.

A key concern of the project is, therefore, to develop ecological interventions and guidance for diverse end-users to minimise mosquito-related problems, framed within and facilitated by a broader understanding of wetland value as impacted by mosquitoes. The potential contribution of wetland development to social and economic wellbeing envisaged in the UK Wetland Vision could be severely constrained by a failure to adequately address the risks imposed by mosquitoes and biting insects.

The overall aim of this project will be to show how positive socio-cultural and ecological values of wetlands can be maximised for wellbeing and negative attitudes reduced. Management interventions for use by Public Health England and general guidelines will be developed to limit the damaging effects of mosquito populations and enhance appreciation of the ecological value of mosquitoes in wetland ecosystems. The project will result in an increase in our understanding of wetland environments and demonstrate how ecological interventions embedded in a broader understanding of wetland valuation can deliver wellbeing benefits to a broad range of stakeholders.

There are four main objectives:

  1. Development of a new conceptual place-based ecosystem services and wellbeing framework for understanding the impact of interventions and wetland values.
  2. Exploration of the value of wetlands and mosquitoes in twelve case study locations.
  3. Production of guidelines for valuing wetlands and managing mosquito populations to enhance the value of British wetlands for wellbeing.
  4. Production of a place-based narrative on the socio-cultural, economic and ecological value of wetlands in British Society in the early years of the 21st Century.

There are divergent views of wetlands among different stakeholders. This project is therefore designed to provide technical interventions and general guidelines in a range of wetland management contexts to maximise wellbeing benefits. A range of stakeholders are potential beneficiaries of this research including land managers, non-governmental organisations, conservation groups, local residents, visitors and tourists among others.

This research will help implementation of the Wetland Vision by understanding the complex ways in which wetlands are valued and produce measures to maximise wellbeing benefits and minimise disvalue.

Benefits include:

  1. production of a range of technical interventions for mosquito control by end users;
  2. raising the social and cultural value of wetlands to facilitate wetland expansion in response to extreme weather and climate change;
  3. enhanced opportunities for visitors to wetlands and local residence to experience health and wellbeing benefits;
  4. increased opportunities for tourism and leisure by reducing anxiety associated with wetlands.

HUME, C. 2008. Wetland Vision Technical Document: overview and reporting of project philosophy and technical approach. The Wetland Vision Partnership.