Large-Scale Removal of Invasive Honeysuckle Decreases Mosquito and Avian Host Abundance

Abstract

Invasive species rank second only to habitat destruction as a threat to native biodiversity. One consequence of biological invasions is altered risk of exposure to infectious diseases in human and animal populations. The distribution and prevalence of mosquito-borne diseases depend on the complex interactions between the vector, the pathogen, and the human or wildlife reservoir host. These interactions are highly susceptible to disturbance by invasive species, including terrestrial plants. We conducted a 2-year field experiment using a Before–After/Control–Impact design to examine how removal of invasive Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) in a forest fragment embedded within a residential neighborhood affects the abundance of mosquitoes, including two of the most important vectors of West Nile virus, Culex pipiens and Cx. restuans. We also assessed any potential changes in avian communities and local microclimate associated with Amur honeysuckle removal. We found that (1) removal of Amur honeysuckle reduces the abundance of both vector and non-vector mosquito species that commonly feed on human hosts, (2) the abundance and composition of avian hosts is altered by honeysuckle removal, and (3) areas invaded with honeysuckle support local microclimates that are favorable to mosquito survival. Collectively, our investigations demonstrate the role of a highly invasive understory shrub in determining the abundance and distribution of mosquitoes and suggest potential mechanisms underlying this pattern. Our results also give rise to additional questions regarding the general impact of invasive plants on vector-borne diseases and the spatial scale at which removal of invasive plants may be utilized to effect disease control.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Brit’nee Haskins, Reanna Kayser, Jackie Duple, Noor Malik, Chase Robinson, Jake Gold, and Kristen Chen for their assistance with mosquito trapping in 2014 and 2015. We gratefully acknowledge Stéphane Guerrier, James Balamuta, and Roberto Molinari for their analysis of the VPD time series data and Michael Ward for discussing the analysis of the bird abundance data. We thank the following individuals and organizations for their assistance with the honeysuckle removal during the winter of 2015: Jay Hayek, Tom Schmeelk, Natalie Pawlikowski, Andrew Mackay, Dan Swanson, Tanya Josek, Tyler Hedlund, Jocelyn Sullivan, Eric South, Brandon Lieberthal, the University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners of Champaign County, the University of Illinois Entomology Graduate Students Association, the University of Illinois Crop Sciences Graduate Student Organization, and students in the University of Illinois Conservation Biology, Spring 2015 course. We thank Mahomet-Seymour High School and the Village of Mahomet, Illinois, for land use permission. This study was supported by a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) STAR Graduate Research Fellowship to AMG, a University of Illinois Francis M. and Harlie M. Clark Summer Fellowship to AMG, an Illinois Natural History Survey Philip W. Smith Memorial Award for Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology to AMG, a University of Illinois Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment grant to BFA and EJM, and Illinois Waste Tire and Emergency Public Health Funds to EJM. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the US Department of Agriculture. The mention of firm names or trade products does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by the US Department of Agriculture over other firms or similar products not mentioned; the USDA is an equal opportunity employer.

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Correspondence to Allison M. Gardner.

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Gardner, A.M., Muturi, E.J., Overmier, L.D. et al. Large-Scale Removal of Invasive Honeysuckle Decreases Mosquito and Avian Host Abundance. EcoHealth 14, 750–761 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-017-1265-6

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Keywords

  • Invasive plants
  • Culex pipiens
  • Culex restuans
  • Lonicera maackii
  • Conservation
  • West Nile virus