Wetlands, including marshes, swamps, bogs and fens, exist at the intersection between land and water. Many of these landscapes are beautiful, ethereal places, and a source of inspiration to artists, poets, writers and photographers. They are important for wildlife habitats, act as flood defences, and are great recreational spaces. They generate a wide range of environmental, economic and socio-cultural benefits to people, supporting their health and wellbeing, and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Wetlands are also known for their association to biting insects such as mosquitoes. So how can we create, restore and manage wetlands, while limiting perceived or actual public health impacts from mosquitoes?
To help answer this question, researchers from NRI and Public Health England have published a new, comprehensive, open access resource for wetland managers and policymakers: the ‘Wetland Mosquito Survey Handbook – Assessing suitability of British wetlands for mosquitoes’. Contributing authors are from the Universities of Greenwich and Bristol, and Imperial College London.
The book was launched with a webinar on the 20th August – World Mosquito Day. Speakers from NRI, Public Health England and the University of Greenwich discussed the fascinating ecology of British mosquitoes and their potential public health implications with respect to wetlands. You can watch a recording of the webinar on the WetlandLIFE YouTube channel here.
The Wetland Mosquito Survey Handbook gives an overview of the biology, ecology and behaviour of British mosquitoes in wetlands, provides details of strategies for surveying mosquitoes, as well as species-specific details on the different kinds of aquatic habitats that support British mosquitoes. It also includes details of the legal frameworks surrounding pest management as relates to mosquitoes and an assessment of the current risks associated with future mosquito-borne disease in the UK.
“There are currently no mosquito-borne diseases in the UK, so we’re in a good position,” explains NRI’s Dr Frances Hawkes, one of the book’s lead authors. “But it’s crucial that we better understand the ecology of mosquitoes now in order to maintain this position, and to ‘future-proof’ our response if the situation changes. This is especially important in the face of climate change, which could cause disruptions to the seasonal flooding events on which the ecology of many British mosquitoes depends. There can be misunderstandings about the potential nuisance and disease-risks from wetland mosquitoes, so it’s important that professionals are informed and ready to resolve any problems if and when they occur.”
The book includes a tool for predicting which mosquito species are likely to be found in specific wetland environments, to support practitioners in preparing evidence-based risk assessments and management, alongside guidance on how to survey and manage problematic species.
“One of our main hopes for the book is that it can empower those managing wetlands in the UK with the evidence-base to respond to public queries about mosquitoes, and ensure that people and wildlife can all continue to benefit from our wonderful wetland ecosystems."
Text by Frances Hawkes and Gillian Summers; Photos by Anders Lindström (top) and Tim Acott (all rights reserved).