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Can rodent outbreaks be driven by major climatic events? Evidence from cyclone Nargis in the Ayeyawady Delta, Myanmar

posted Mar 4, 2015, 7:52 PM by Unknown user
Authors:  Nyo Me Htwe1,2,*, Grant R Singleton1 and Andrew D Nelson

BACKGROUND: Massive rodent population outbreaks occurred in the Ayeyarwady Delta, Myanmar, in July 2009, 15 months after cyclone Nargis. Satellite imagery with high temporal frequency was used to identify the area and planting time of rice at a landscape scale of > 80 000 ha, and household surveys of farmers were conducted to validate the mapping and to quantify losses.

RESULTS: Farmers did not have problems with rodents in 2007–2008; rodents were the principal problem in the 2009 summer and monsoon rice crops. The landscape scale modeling indicated that high rodent densities in 2009 were associated with extended or delayed cropping and harvesting time because of asynchronous planting, and with an increase in the amount of abandoned agricultural land after cyclone Nargis.

CONCLUSION: Asynchronous planting following cyclone Nargis provided abundant high-quality food for an extended period, which in turn led to a lengthened breeding season of rodents. The outbreak of populations 15 months after cyclone Nargis is consistent with the time it would take rodent populations to build from a low base after a major flooding event. To prevent rodent outbreaks effectively, synchronous planting, use of rice varieties with a similar maturation date and good field sanitation are important actions for subsequent rice crops after a major weather event.