Satellite images of the earth are widely available today and have led to advancements in landscape ecology. Given an area on a map, can entomologists and ecologists predict the flora and fauna that can be found in area (but not visible in the photograph)?
The short answer is, Yes. Landscape ecologists can conduct surveys of flora and fauna in selected areas to determine what species are present and which are absent. They correlate the species they find with satellite data including information on latitude and longitude and visible features present in the image. Computers generate quantitative information about the visible features in the photos such as forests, bodies of water, etc. The computer information is used in the predictions. As the science advances, landscape ecologists are improving the ability to predict the location of species.Epidemiological information such as location and prevalence of diseases can also be correlated with satellite data. This technique can be use to identify clusters of disease and “hot spots”. A recent study in Texas correlated incidence of West Nile Virus with proximity to bodies of water. The study was able to establish correlations useful for West Nile Virus prevention programs. Areas of the landscape with non-flowing water (such as bayous) and abundant aquatic plants are associated with West Nile Virus. West Nile Virus was rarely found near areas with moderately flowing water. This type of information narrows the areas of focus for mosquito control officers. These hot spots for West Nile Virus receive priority inspection and treatment. This makes West Nile Virus prevention programs more efficient, more effective and less expensive.