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Mosquito control based on Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) - Ecological effects on wetland food chains and public acceptance of control alternatives

  • The bio-insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) has worldwide become the most commonly used agentin mosquito control programs that pursue two main objectives: the control of vector-borne diseases and the reduction of nuisance, mainly coming frommosquitoes that emerge in large quantities from seasonal wetlands. The Upper Rhine Valley, a biodiversity hotspot in Germany, has been treated withBti for decades to reduce mosquito-borne nuisance and increase human well-being.Although Btiis presumed to be an environmentally safe agent,adverse effects on wetland ecosystems are still a matter of debate especially when it comes to long-term and indirect effects on non-target organisms. In light of the above, this thesis aims at investigating direct and indirect effects of Bti-based mosquito control on non-target organisms within wetland food chains.Effects were examinedin studies with increasingeco(toxico)logical complexity, ranging from laboratory over mesocosm to field approaches with a focus on the non-biting Chironomidae and amphibian larvae (Rana temporaria, Lissotriton sp.).In addition, public acceptance of environmentally less invasive alternative mosquito control methods was evaluated within surveys among the local population. Chironomids were the most severely affected non-target aquatic invertebrates. Bti substantially reduced larval and adult chironomid abundances and modified their species composition. Repeated exposures to commonly used Bti formulations induced sublethal alterations of enzymatic biomarkers activityin frog tadpoles. Bti-induced reductions of chironomid prey availability indirectly decreased body size of newts at metamorphosis and increased predation on newt larvae in mesocosm experiments. Indirect effects of severe reductions in midge biomassmight equally be passed through aquatic but also terrestrial food chains influencing predators of higher trophic levels. The majority ofaffectedpeople in the Upper Rhine Valley expressed a high willingness to contributefinancially to environmentally less harmful mosquito control.Alternative approaches could still include Bti applications excepting treatment of ecologically valuable areas. Potentially rising mosquito levels could be counteracted with local acting mosquito traps in domestic and urban areas because mosquito presence was experienced as most annoying in the home environment. As Bti-based mosquito control can adversely affect wetland ecosystems, its large-scale applications, including nature conservation areas, should be considered more carefully to avoid harmful consequences for the environmentat the Upper Rhine Valley.This thesis emphasizesthe importance to reconsiderthe current practice of mosquito control and encourage research on alternative mosquito control concepts that are endorsed by the local population. In the context ofthe ongoing amphibian and insect declinesfurther human-induced effects onwetlands should be avoided to preserve biodiversity in functioning ecosystems.

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Author:Stefanie Allgeier
Title Additional (German):Stechmückenbekämpfung mit Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) – ökologische Effekte auf die Nahrungskette in Feuchtgebieten und Akzeptanz von Alternativen in der Bevölkerung
Advisor:Carsten A. Brühl, Ralf Schulz
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of completion:2019/12/19
Date of publication:2019/12/20
Publishing institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau, Universitätsbibliothek
Granting institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau, Fachbereich 7
Date of final exam:2019/12/12
Release Date:2019/12/20
Tag:chironomids; mosquito control; non-target effects
Number of pages:V, 224 Seiten
Institutes:Fachbereich 7
Licence (German):License LogoEs gilt das deutsche Urheberrecht: § 53 UrhG