Funded by: Belgian Science Policy
Researchers: Jasper Van doninck, Jan Peters
Promotor: Niko Verhoest, Bernard De Baets (www.kermit.ugent.be)
Short name: EPIDEMOIST
Begin date: 1/12/2008
End date: 31/12/2010


Bluetongue is an arboviral disease that causes high mortality, mainly in certain breeds of sheep but also in other domestic and wild ruminants. It is caused by the bluetongue virus that is transmitted between ruminant hosts almost entirely by the bites of Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae).

Models based on climate variables and satellite imagery have been developed in order to predict the presence and abundance of C. imicola in the Mediterranean region, where this species has been described only in concomitance with bluetongue outbreaks, and was generally never recorded before. These models appear to be reliable and useful in planning preventive control measures on a large scale. However, discrepancies occur when comparing model predictions and field data on a local scale. In Italy, presence of C. imicola has been predicted based on several models, producing quite different distribution maps, thus stressing the need of testing and extending existing models in order to draw more accurate prediction maps.

Amongst others, soil moisture is one of the variables that might be an explanatory factor of the presence or absence of the insect vector. However, until now, epidemiological research has only partially integrated knowledge on soil moisture within its spatial models. Usually, the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) has been used as proxy for soil moisture, even though the correlation between NDVI and soil moisture has not been validated at most sites. Especially in semi-arid regions, this correlation is most likely to be weak and other proxies for soil moisture estimation will be investigated. Therefore the use of soil moisture proxies derived from multispectral sensors and/or the use of radar derived soil moisture will be suggested for future mapping of Culicoides imicola presence/absence.

Partners in the project:

Els Ducheyne (AviaGIS, coordinator), Wilfried Philips (UG-TELIN)