Land cover affects microclimate and temperature suitability for arbovirus transmission in an urban landscape

Summary by: Kailah Massey

Corresponding Authors: Michael C. Wimberly, Courtney C. Murdock


Arboviruses, viruses that are transmitted through insect vectors such as mosquitoes, present a huge threat to human health. Environmental factors such as temperature, precipitation, and humidity intensely affect mosquito population dynamics and disease transmission cycles. A better understanding of these factors in the mosquito microenvironment can help predict mosquito abundance and the risk of arbovirus transmission. These predictions can be used to identify areas that might become more suitable for disease transmission with climate change.


To predict the effects of temperature on mosquito abundance and arbovirus transmission cycles, a team of scientists, including CEID members, Courtney Murdock, Michelle Evans, Mike Newberry, and Nicole Solano-Asamoah used land cover data to map microclimate temperature across an urban-to-rural gradient in Athens, GA. They then applied a temperature-dependent vectorial capacity model to predict how microclimate temperature affects the potential for dengue transmission by Aedes albopictus. This revealed patterns of temperature suitability for disease transmission that were not otherwise detectable when solely using macroclimate data. The models analyzed temperature-dependent mosquito abundance and vectorial capacity predictions.


The researchers found that patches of trees in urban areas with impervious surfaces were predicted to have the highest vectorial capacities. Predictions of vectorial capacity were found to be more sensitive to impermeable surfaces in the fall and more sensitive to tree coverings in the summer. This study demonstrates that differences in mosquito microenvironments can be modeled using satellite Earth observations. The authors note that including microclimate data in disease transmission models has the potential to generate more spatially specific and ecologically interpretable data about mosquito-borne disease transmission risks.


Wimberly, M. C., Davis, J. K., Evans, M. V., Hess, A., Newberry, P. M., Solano-Asamoah, N., & Murdock, C. C. (2020). Land cover affects microclimate and temperature suitability for arbovirus transmission in an urban landscape. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases14(9), e0008614.