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Linking Wetland Ecosystem Services to Vector-borne Disease: Dengue Fever in the San Juan Bay Estuary, Puerto Rico

  • Rebeca de Jesús CrespoEmail author
  • Pablo Méndez Lázaro
  • Susan H. Yee
Landscape Approaches to Wetland Management


Mosquito-borne diseases are an increasingly important health concern, which pose great challenges for safe and sustainable control and eradication. This reality calls for management approaches that consider multiple aspects of the transmission cycle from a landscape and vector ecology perspective, to socio-economic elements that may increase exposure. This study seeks to better understand these pathways using dengue fever in the San Juan Bay Estuary (SJBE), Puerto Rico. Dengue is transmitted by Aedes aegypti, a species that thrives in cities. Here we ask which elements within the urban landscape could be managed to help prevent dengue outbreaks. We studied the potential of coastal wetlands in the SJBE to buffer vector proliferation, hypothesizing that wetland ecosystem services lead to lower dengue occurrence. We test this hypothesis using census-block level dengue data from 2010-13, including the largest epidemic in Puerto Rican history. Our analytical model includes socio-economic factors and environmental controls that may also affect dengue dynamics. Results from beta-binomial regressions and model averaging indicated that dengue occurrence was lower in neighborhoods with higher wetland cover even after controlling for population density and other socio-economic aspects. Our models suggest that heat hazard mitigation is partly responsible for the association between wetlands and dengue.


Ecosystem Goods and Services Coastal wetlands Dengue “Vector-borne” diseases Urban landscape San Juan Bay Estuary 



We thank Roberto Barrera from the CDC Dengue Branch for providing data and advice in the development of this work. Matthew Harwell, Marc Russell and Richard Fulford provided suggestions that greatly helped improved this research. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Any mention of trade names, products or services does not imply an endorsement by the U.S. Government or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA does not endorse any commercial products, services, or enterprises.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOC 349 kb)


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Copyright information

© US Government 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gulf Ecology Division, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, US EPA, Office of Research and DevelopmentGulf BreezeUSA
  2. 2.University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences CampusSan JuanPuerto Rico

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