The application of predictive modelling for determining bio-environmental factors affecting the distribution of blackflies (Diptera: Simuliidae) in the Gilgel Gibe watershed in Southwest Ethiopia
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Citation (published version)Ambelu A, Mekonen S, Koch M, Addis T, Boets P, et al. (2014) The Application of Predictive Modelling for Determining Bio-Environmental Factors Affecting the Distribution of Blackflies (Diptera: Simuliidae) in the Gilgel Gibe Watershed in Southwest Ethiopia. PLOS ONE 9(11): e112221. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0112221
Blackflies are important macroinvertebrate groups from a public health as well as ecological point of view. Determining the biological and environmental factors favouring or inhibiting the existence of blackflies could facilitate biomonitoring of rivers as well as control of disease vectors. The combined use of different predictive modelling techniques is known to improve identification of presence/absence and abundance of taxa in a given habitat. This approach enables better identification of the suitable habitat conditions or environmental constraints of a given taxon. Simuliidae larvae are important biological indicators as they are abundant in tropical aquatic ecosystems. Some of the blackfly groups are also important disease vectors in poor tropical countries. Our investigations aim to establish a combination of models able to identify the environmental factors and macroinvertebrate organisms that are favourable or inhibiting blackfly larvae existence in aquatic ecosystems. The models developed using macroinvertebrate predictors showed better performance than those based on environmental predictors. The identified environmental and macroinvertebrate parameters can be used to determine the distribution of blackflies, which in turn can help control river blindness in endemic tropical places. Through a combination of modelling techniques, a reliable method has been developed that explains environmental and biological relationships with the target organism, and, thus, can serve as a decision support tool for ecological management strategies.
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