The western Kenya highland has been experiencing dramatic landuse changes in the past three decades. Landuse change has been hypothesized to be one of the mechanisms for malaria epidemics in African highlands because it can alter the physical and chemical characteristics of mosquito breeding habitats. One important landuse change in western Kenya highland is deforestation. The current study examined the effects of forestation or deforestation on the survivorship of Anopheles gambiae larvae and colonization of other aquatic insects in larval habitats in Kakamega forest (elevation 1,500–1,700 m above sea level), western Kenya. We found that the survivorship of An. gambiae larvae was reduced from 55 to 57% in habitats fully exposed to sunlight (open habitats) to 1–2% in habitats with full forest canopy coverage (forest habitats) and partial canopy coverage (forest edge habitats) in two out of three trials. The average daily water temperature of the open habitats was ≈3–3.4°C higher than the forest habitats. Insect species in the orders of Diptera, Coleoptera, and Odonata colonized the larval habitats, but the three habitat types differed greatly in the animal assemblage. Canonical correspondence analysis found that water temperature and amount of leaf litter were the significant variables associated with animal assemblages. Redundancy analysis revealed that openness and the presence of predatory animals were significantly related to An. gambiae survivorship. This result suggests that deforestation facilitates the survival of the immature stage of An. gambiae in the highland.
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