Impact of Predator Exclusion and Habitat on Seroprevalence of New World Orthohantavirus Harbored by Two Sympatric Rodents within the Interior Atlantic Forest.Viruses. 2021 09 29; 13(10)V
Understanding how perturbations to trophic interactions influence virus-host dynamics is essential in the face of ongoing biodiversity loss and the continued emergence of RNA viruses and their associated zoonoses. Herein, we investigated the role of predator exclusion on rodent communities and the seroprevalence of hantaviruses within the Reserva Natural del Bosque Mbaracayú (RNBM), which is a protected area of the Interior Atlantic Forest (IAF). In the IAF, two sympatric rodent reservoirs, Akodon montensis and Oligoryzomys nigripes, harbor Jaborá and Juquitiba hantavirus (JABV, JUQV), respectively. In this study, we employed two complementary methods for predator exclusion: comprehensive fencing and trapping/removal. The goal of exclusion was to preclude the influence of predation on small mammals on the sampling grids and thereby potentially reduce rodent mortality. Following baseline sampling on three grid pairs with different habitats, we closed the grids and began predator removal. By sampling three habitat types, we controlled for habitat-specific effects, which is important for hantavirus-reservoir dynamics in neotropical ecosystems. Our six-month predator exclusion experiment revealed that the exclusion of terrestrial mammalian predators had little influence on the rodent community or the population dynamics of A. montensis and O. nigripes. Instead, fluctuations in species diversity and species abundances were influenced by sampling session and forest degradation. These results suggest that seasonality and landscape composition play dominant roles in the prevalence of hantaviruses in rodent reservoirs in the IAF ecosystem.