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Remotely sensed characterizations of landscape composition were evaluated for
Lyme disease exposure risk on 337 residential properties in two communities of suburban Westchester County, New York. Properties were categorized as no, low, or high risk based on seasonally adjusted densities of Ixodes scapularis nymphs, determined by drag sampling during June and July 1990. Spectral indices based on Landsat Thematic Mapper data provided relative measures of vegetation structure and moisture (wetness), as well as vegetation abundance (greenness). A geographic information system (GIS) was used to spatially quantify and relate the remotely sensed landscape variables to risk category. A comparison of the two communities showed that Chappaqua, which had more high-risk properties (P < 0.001), was significantly greener and wetter than Armonk (P < 0.001). Furthermore, within Chappaqua, high-risk properties were significantly greener and wetter than lower-risk properties in this community (P < 0.01). The high-risk properties appeared to contain a greater proportion of broadleaf trees, while lower-risk properties were interpreted as having a greater proportion of nonvegetative cover and/or open lawn. The ability to distinguish these fine scale differences among communities and individual properties illustrates the efficiency of a remote sensing/GIS-based approach for identifying peridomestic risk of
Lyme disease over large geographic areas.