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Almaty, Kazakhstan

Wilschut L.I.,University Utrecht | Addink E.A.,University Utrecht | Heesterbeek J.A.P.,University Utrecht | Dubyanskiy V.M.,Stavropol Plague Control Research Institute | And 7 more authors.
International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation | Year: 2013

Plague is a zoonotic infectious disease present in great gerbil populations in Kazakhstan. Infectious disease dynamics are influenced by the spatial distribution of the carriers (hosts) of the disease. The great gerbil,the main host in our study area, lives in burrows, which can be recognized on high resolution satellite imagery.In this study, using earth observation data at various spatial scales, we map the spatial distribution of burrows in a semi-desert landscape. The study area consists of various landscape types. To evaluate whether identification of burrows by classification is possible in these landscape types, the study area was subdivided into eightlandscape units, on the basis of Landsat 7 ETM+ derived Tasselled Cap Greenness and Brightness, and SRTM derivedstandard deviation in elevation. In the field, 904 burrows were mapped. Using two segmented 2.5 m resolution SPOT-5 XS satellite scenes, reference object sets were created. Random Forests were built for both SPOT scenes and used to classify the images. Additionally, a stratified classification was carried out, by building separate Random Forests per landscape unit. Burrows were successfully classified in all landscape units. In the 'steppe on floodplain' areas, classification worked best: producer's and user's accuracy in those areas reached 88% and 100%, respectively. In the 'floodplain' areas with a more heterogeneous vegetation cover, classification worked least well; there, accuracies were 86 and 58% respectively. Stratified classification improved the results in all landscape units where comparison was possible (four), increasing kappa coefficients by 13, 10, 9 and 1%, respectively. In this study, an innovative stratification method using high- and medium resolution imagery was applied inorder to map host distribution on a large spatial scale. The burrow maps we developed will help to detect changes in the distribution of great gerbil populations and, moreover, serve as a unique empirical data set which can be used as input for epidemiological plague models. This is an important step in understanding the dynamics of plague. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

Addink E.A.,University Utrecht | De Jong S.M.,University Utrecht | Davis S.A.,Yale University | Davis S.A.,University Utrecht | And 4 more authors.
Remote Sensing of Environment | Year: 2010

Bubonic plague, caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, persists as a public health problem in many parts of the world, including central Kazakhstan. Bubonic plague occurs most often in humans through a flea bite, when a questing flea fails to find a rodent host. For many of the plague foci in Kazakhstan the great gerbil is the major host of plague, a social rodent well-adapted to desert environments. Intensive monitoring and prevention of plague in gerbils started in 1947, reducing the number of human cases and mortalities drastically. However, the monitoring is labour-intensive and hence expensive and is now under threat due to financial constraints. Previous research showed that the occupancy rate of the burrow systems of the great gerbil is a strong indicator for the probability of a plague outbreak. The burrow systems are around 30 m in diameter with a bare surface. This paper aims to demonstrate the automatic classification of burrow systems in satellite images using object-oriented analysis. We performed field campaigns in September 2007 and May and September 2008 and acquired corresponding QuickBird images of the first two periods. User's and producer's accuracy values of the classification reached 60 and 86%, respectively, providing proof of concept that automatic mapping of burrow systems using high-resolution satellite images is possible. Such maps, by better defining great gerbil foci, locating new or expanding foci and measuring the density of great gerbil burrow systems could play a major role in a renewed monitoring system by better directing surveillance and control efforts. Furthermore, if similar analyses can separate occupied burrow systems from empty ones, then very-high-resolution images stand to play a crucial role in plague surveillance throughout central Asia. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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