Early warning of migrant pests in Africa

Fritjof Voss
Institut für Geographie, Technische Universität Berlin, Budapester Str. 44/48, 10787 Berlin, Germany.
Tel. : +49-30-31 42-21 48 or 21 51, Fax: 00 49- 30- 31 42-51 94,
E-mail: voss0739@mailszrz.zrz.TU-Berlin.de

Huge areas covering whole subcontinents, especially in the subtropics, have always been subject to pest plagues.

Among the most important of these migrant pests are locusts, huge flocks of crop eating birds, and severe vegetation damages caused by the African army worm. In recent decades the damaging effects of such plagues have become increasingly severe, due to the steady and continuous population increase. The serious plagues of 1988 increased pressure on the industrialised nations to look for new and more effective and efficient control measures. This was the initial step to apply satellite remote sensing techniques. Even though these technologies became only available during the past 10 to 15 years it is certain, that they are invaluable in the fight of plagues of migratory pests of all kinds. The applied research programme is composed of three stages.

  1. Inventory of natural resources and migrant pest relevant biotopes by means of LANDSAT and SPOT data in selected African countries. The results are plotted and mapped as .the spatial distribution of constant parameters, which highly favour the maximum likelihood of forthcoming outbreak areas.
  2. Data from METEOSAT and NOAHH are applied to investigate the variable parameters, especially rainfall and temperature. The imminant danger of a prospective migrant pest outbreak most probably occurs, if the first rainfall at the end of the dry season reaches the potential biotope outbreak areas. Also the vegetation status can be observed thoroughly. These data are transferred to the original satellite map by means of a GIS (Geographic Information System). Depending on the kind of migrant pest, few weeks are left now to investigate the situation on the ground and to start countermeasures immediately.
  3. In order to facilitate the data flow from Europe to any point in Africa, TUBSAT was used, a satellite built by a team of the TU Berlin, which enables the transfer of words, texts, graphs and pictures The mobile communication equipment is small, light and can be operated from anywhere using 12 volts current only.

The combination of the aforementioned satellite technologies make a monitoring and early warning system possible that may help to reduce and/or prevent potential migrant pest plagues.