Potential larval habitats of the mosquito Culex tarsalis (Coquillett), implicated as a primary vector of West Nile virus in Wyoming, were identified using integrated remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS) analyses. The study area is in the Powder River Basin of north central Wyoming, an area that has been undergoing a significant increase in coalbed methane gas extractions since the late 1990s. Large volumes of water are discharged, impounded, and released during the extraction of methane gas, creating aquatic habitats that have the potential to support immature mosquito development. Landsat TM and ETM data were initially classified into spectrally distinct water and vegetation classes, which were in turn used to identify suitable larval habitat sites. This initial habitat classification was refined using knowledge-based GIS techniques requiring spatial data layers for topography, streams, and soils to reduce the potential for overestimation of habitat. Accuracy assessment was carried out using field data and high-resolution aerial photography commensurate with one of the Landsat images. The classifier can identify likely habitat for ponds larger than 0.8 ha (2 acres) with generally satisfactory results (72.1%) with a lower detection limit of ≈0.4 ha (1 acre). Results show a 75% increase in potential larval habitats from 1999 to 2004 in the study area, primarily because of the large increase in small coalbed methane water discharge ponds. These results may facilitate mosquito abatement programs in the Powder River Basin with the potential for application throughout the state and region.
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Vol. 43 • No. 5