Ecological niche and potential distribution of Anopheles arabiensis in Africa in 2050

John M. Drake, John C. Beier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: The future distribution of malaria in Africa is likely to be much more dependent on environmental conditions than the current distribution due to the effectiveness of indoor and therapeutic anti-malarial interventions, such as insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), indoor residual spraying for mosquitoes (IRS), artemisinin-combination therapy (ACT), and intermittent presumptive treatment (IPT). Future malaria epidemiology is therefore expected to be increasingly dominated by Anopheles arabiensis, which is the most abundant exophagic mosquito competent to transmit Plasmodium falciparum and exhibits a wide geographic range. Methods. To map the potential distribution of An. arabiensis in Africa, ecological niche models were fit to 20th century collection records. Many common species distribution modelling techniques aim to discriminate species habitat from the background distribution of environments. Since these methods arguably result in unnecessarily large Type I and Type II errors, LOBAG-OC was used to identify the niche boundary using only data on An. arabiensis occurrences. The future distribution of An. arabiensis in Africa was forecasted by projecting the fit model onto maps of simulated climate change following three climate change scenarios. Results: Ecological niche modelling revealed An. arabiensis to be a climate generalist in the sense that it can occur in most of Africa's contemporary environmental range. Under three climate change scenarios, the future distribution of An. arabiensis is expected to be reduced by 48%-61%. Map differences between baseline and projected climate suggest that habitat reductions will be especially extensive in Western and Central Africa; portions of Botswana, Namibia, and Angola in Southern Africa; and portions of Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, and Kenya in East Africa. The East African Rift Valley and Eastern Coast of Africa are expected to remain habitable. Some modest gains in habitat are predicted at the margins of the current range in South Sudan, South Africa, and Angola. Conclusion: In summary, these results suggest that the future potential distribution of An. arabiensis in Africa is likely to be smaller than the contemporary distribution by approximately half as a result of climate change. Agreement among the three modelling scenarios suggests that this outcome is robust to a wide range of potential climate futures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number213
JournalMalaria Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 3 2014


  • Anopheles arabiensis
  • Climate change
  • Ecological niche model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology


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