Assessing the effects of variables and background selection on the capture of the tick climate niche
- Equal contributors
1 Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Zaragoza, Miguel Servet 177, 50013 Zaragoza, Spain
2 Department of Geography, University of Zaragoza, Pedro Cerbuna, 2, 50006 Zaragoza, Spain
3 SaBio, IREC, Ciudad Real, Spain
4 Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, USA
International Journal of Health Geographics 2013, 12:43 doi:10.1186/1476-072X-12-43Published: 26 September 2013
Modelling the environmental niche and spatial distribution of pathogen-transmitting arthropods involves various quality and methodological concerns related to using climate data to capture the environmental niche. This study tested the potential of MODIS remotely sensed and interpolated gridded covariates to estimate the climate niche of the medically important ticks Ixodes ricinus and Hyalomma marginatum. We also assessed model inflation resulting from spatial autocorrelation (SA) and collinearity (CO) of covariates used as time series of data (monthly values of variables), principal components analysis (PCA), and a discrete Fourier transformation. Performance of the models was measured using area under the curve (AUC), autocorrelation by Moran’s I, and collinearity by the variance inflation factor (VIF).
The covariate spatial resolution slightly affected the final AUC. Consistently, models for H. marginatum performed better than models for I. ricinus, likely because of a species-derived rather than covariate effect because the former occupies a more limited niche. Monthly series of interpolated climate always better captured the climate niche of the ticks, but the SA was around 2 times higher and the maximum VIF between covariates around 30 times higher in interpolated than in MODIS-derived covariates. Interpolated or remotely sensed monthly series of covariates always had higher SA and CO than their transformations by PCA or Fourier. Regarding the effects of background point selection on AUC, we found that selection based on a set of rules for the distance to the core distribution and the heterogeneity of the landscape influenced model outcomes. The best selection relied on a random selection of points as close as possible to the target organism area of distribution, but effects are variable according to the species modelled.
Testing for effects of SA and CO is necessary before incorporating these covariates into algorithms building a climate envelope. Results support a higher SA and CO in an interpolated climate dataset than in remotely sensed covariates. Satellite-derived information has fewer drawbacks compared to interpolated climate for modelling tick relationships with environmental niche. Removal of SA and CO by a harmonic regression seems most promising because it retains both biological and statistical meaning.