Frontrunner project: Climate change and vectorborne virus outbreaks

Because of climate change we face higher temperatures, different precipitation patterns and more extreme weather conditions. The landscape is changing: The delta is facing salinization and we are creating additional water buffers to cope with floods. Mosquitoes, which can carry viruses, thrive in this warmer and wetter landscape.

There has currently not been sufficient research into the links between environmental changes, landscape management, the ecology of arthropods, animals and human health.

Objective

The aim is to study how salinization and the changing landscape affect the ecology of mosquitoes, birds and the transmission of viruses.

Approach

We will develop scenarios where groundwater salinization, salt intrusion in surface water and the delta, land-use modifications, and surface-water temperatures relate to ideal mosquito habitat. We study the impact of salinization and the climate on four globally important mosquito species. These mosquitoes carry viruses and are also present in the Netherlands. We research how water landscape management influences the distribution of different types of birds and explore whether these developments will contribute to the transmission of viruses to urban areas. Lastly, experts in virus ecology and animal ecology will explore innovative methods of ‘bird distraction’.

We will conduct a joint risk analysis for public health in the Rotterdam urban delta with our partners and stakeholders.