Declining Prevalence of Disease Vectors Under Climate Change

Abstract

More than half of the world population is at risk of vector-borne diseases including dengue fever, chikungunya, zika, yellow fever, leishmaniasis, chagas disease, and malaria, with highest incidences in tropical regions. In Ecuador, vector-borne diseases are present from coastal and Amazonian regions to the Andes Mountains; however, a detailed characterization of the distribution of their vectors has never been carried out. We estimate the distribution of 14 vectors of the above vector-borne diseases under present-day and future climates. Our results consistently suggest that climate warming is likely threatening some vector species with extinction, locally or completely. These results suggest that climate change could reduce the burden of specific vector species. Other vector species are likely to shift and constrain their geographic range to the highlands in Ecuador potentially affecting novel areas and populations. These forecasts show the need for development of early prevention strategies for vector species currently absent in areas projected as suitable under future climate conditions. Informed interventions could reduce the risk of human exposure to vector species with distributional shifts, in response to current and future climate changes. Based on the mixed effects of future climate on human exposure to disease vectors, we argue that research on vector-borne diseases should be cross-scale and include climatic, demographic, and landscape factors, as well as forces facilitating disease transmission at fine scales.

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