Echinococcus multilocularis (Em), a parasitic tapeworm, is responsible for a significant burden of human disease across continental Asia. Here, we use a time-series of MODIS 16-day 250mEnhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) satellite data to quantify the seasonal vegetation dynamics across a study area in Serxu County, Sichuan Province, China, in relation to the presence of the Em intermediate host Ochotona curzoniae (plateau pika) and Ochotona cansus (Gansu pika) (here merged to Ochotona spp.). A series of derived phenological metrics are analysed using the random forests statistical method to determine the relative importance of seasonal vegetation characteristics. Results indicate negative relationships between Ochotona spp. presence and EVI showing a preference for low-biomass habitats. However, EVI values during green-up and senescence periods are also shown to be important, potentially resulting from improved detectability of low-biomass grassland habitats at these times. Improved detection of Ochotona spp. preferred habitats via time-series EVI imagery offers better understanding of the distributions of this Em host, and the potential for monitoring the changes in Ochotona spp. optimal habitat distributions resulting from landscape change. This could aid the identification of villages at increased risk of infection, enabling preventive strategies to be adopted.
- Echinococcus multilocularis
- Vegetation index