Researchers produce a Land Surface Temperature based model for the spread of tiger mosquito in Europe
Researchers have developed a model in Trento Province in north-eastern Italy for predicting the spread of the insects, which can be applied across most of Europe. Wild populations of tiger mosquitoes have been found to carry human viruses including dengue fever and West Nile virus.
For their analysis, the researchers established where the mosquitoes lived. They compared this to daily land surface temperature maps recorded by sensors on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites to establish how four environmental factors affected mosquito distribution. These were: average January temperature, average annual temperature, human population density and distance to human population centres.
The research found that the land surface temperature was the most useful factor for predicting the distribution of tiger mosquitoes. Information about human population density and the distance to human population centres was less helpful for forecasting where the mosquitoes could be found.
The satellite data also revealed variations in local micro-climates that were not apparent from just examining the altitude of an area or from local meteorological station data
Rainfall is also important for the tiger mosquito, therefore this model can only be used in areas where annual rainfall is above 500mm, which is the case of Trento.
The study concluded that MODIS satellite LST data are useful for accurately predicting potential areas of tiger mosquito distribution and for revealing the range limits of this species in mountainous areas, predictions which could be extended to a European scale. The observed trend of increasing temperatures due to climate change could facilitate further invasion of Ae. albopictus into new areas
The model could provide an early warning system for health agencies warning them when new areas become vulnerable to colonisation and allowing authorities to control the mosquito and prevent the spread of mosquito-borne disease