Purse, B.V., Tatem, A.J., Caracappa, S., Rogers, D.J., Mellor, P.S., Baylis, M. and Torina, A.
Modelling the distributions of Culicoides bluetongue virus vectors in Sicily in relation to satellite-derived climate variables
Medical and Veterinary Entomology, 18, (2), . (doi:10.1111/j.0269-283X.2004.00492.x). (PMID:15189233).
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Surveillance data from 268 sites in Sicily are used to develop climatic models for prediction of the distribution of the main European bluetongue virus (BTV) vector Culicoides imicola Kieffer (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) and of potential novel vectors, Culicoides pulicaris Linnaeus, Culicoides obsoletus group Meigen and Culicoides newsteadi Austen. The models containing the 'best' climatic predictors of distribution for each species, were selected from combinations of 40 temporally Fourier-processed remotely sensed variables and altitude at a 1 km spatial resolution using discriminant analysis. Kappa values of around 0.6 for all species models indicated substantial levels of agreement between model predictions and observed data. Whilst the distributions of C. obsoletus group and C. newsteadi were predicted by temperature variables, those of C. pulicaris and C. imicola were determined mainly by normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), a variable correlated with soil moisture and vegetation biomass and productivity. These models were used to predict species presence in unsampled pixels across Italy and for C. imicola across Europe and North Africa. The predicted continuous presence of C. pulicaris along the appenine mountains, from north to south Italy, suggests BTV transmission may be possible in a large proportion of this region and that seasonal transhumance (seasonal movement of livestock between upland and lowland pastures) even in C. imicola-free areas should not generally be considered safe. The predicted distribution of C. imicola distribution shows substantial agreement with observed surveillance data from Greece and Iberia (including the Balearics) and parts of mainland Italy (Lazio, Tuscany and areas of the Ionian coast) but is generally much more restricted than the observed distribution (in Sardinia, Corsica and Morocco). The low number of presence sites for C. imicola in Sicily meant that only a restricted range of potential C. imicola habitats were included in the training set and that predictions could only be made within this range. Future modelling exercises will use abundance data collected according to a standardized protocol across the Mediterranean and, for Sicily in particular, should include non-climatic environmental variables that may influence breeding site suitability such as soil type
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