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Keywords:

  • Competition;
  • drought;
  • food web;
  • mosquito;
  • outbreak;
  • precipitation;
  • predation

Abstract

Mosquitoes are not only a nuisance, but also vector many important human and animal diseases. Here, in opposition with the dogma that increased precipitation predicts mosquito abundance, we hypothesize that mosquitoes should show population outbreaks after drought years. Specifically, we suggest that in wetlands that never dry (permanent), predators limit mosquito abundance, whereas in wetlands that dry yearly (temporary), competitors that are well adapted to predictable drying, limit mosquito abundance. However, in wetlands that dry only during drought years (semi-permanent), mosquito predators and competitors are eliminated and must recolonize following a drought, and the abundance of wetland mosquitoes can skyrocket. We present supportive evidence for this hypothesis from surveys of natural wetlands and from a controlled mesocosm experiment. We conclude that this framework may provide a reliable way to predict and prepare for year-to-year variation in mosquito abundances at large spatial scales.