The influence of forest fragmentation on vector community ecology:  preliminary results and potential implications for La Crosse encephalitis virus

Monday, November 11, 2013
Exhibit Hall 4 (Austin Convention Center)
M. Camille Harris , Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Sally Paulson , Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Dana Hawley , Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Changes to forest structure can influence the dynamics of vector-borne diseases via changes in the abundance or diversity of reservoir hosts and vectors.  To-date, however, no research has examined the influence of temperate forest fragmentation and silvicultural techniques on the dynamics of La Crosse encephalitis virus.  This zoonotic orthobunyavirus is transmitted by Aedes triseriatus (Say), a container-breeding mosquito, and amplified in sciurid rodents in temperate forests in the United States.  Over the last few decades, an increased incidence of pediatric encephalitis cases have occurred in Appalachia, underscoring the importance of understanding the ecology of this vector-borne disease in temperate forests.  Here, we present results of a two-year field study showing how the mosquito assemblage (including vectors and invasive species) in Jefferson National Forest, Virginia is influenced by experimental silviculture application and forest fragmentation.  These community ecology results suggest that such temperate forest structural changes may influence the dynamics of many North American arboviruses including La Crosse encephalitis virus.