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Environmental Studies Program

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Department of Biological Sciences


The abundance of mosquitoes is strongly influenced by biotic and abiotic factors that act on the immature (aquatic) and adult (terrestrial) life stages. Rapid changes in land use and climate, which impact aquatic and terrestrial mosquito habitat, necessitate studying the ecological mechanisms, and their interplay with the changing environment, that affect mosquito abundance. These data are crucial for anticipating how environmental change will impact their roles as pests, disease vectors, and in food webs. We studied a population of Arctic mosquitoes (Aedes nigripes, Diptera: Culicidae) in western Greenland, a region experiencing rapid environmental change, to quantify spatial variation in adult abundance and reproduction. Using sweep nets, we collected about sevenfold more mosquitoes within the town of Kangerlussuaq and within a low‐elevation tundra valley compared to three other tundra locations. Dissections of adult female mosquitoes revealed that only 17% were gravid overall, with a range of 7–43% among sites. If gravid, mosquitoes matured an average of 60 eggs per individual—more in larger females. We found no indication of autogenous egg development. Analyses using our field data indicated that spatial variation in adult fecundity and survival of immatures could each account for a 10‐fold range in the per capita growth of mosquito populations. The availability of vertebrate hosts and aquatic habitat is changing in many parts of the Arctic and can be expected to influence Arctic mosquito abundance. In the Arctic, and elsewhere, life‐history data from natural populations of mosquitoes will significantly aid in understanding controls on the abundance of these globally ubiquitous insects.