Local landscape effects on population dynamics of Ixodes ricinus

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Naveed Asghar *
Mona Petersson
Magnus Johansson
Patrik Dinnetz
(*) Corresponding Author:
Naveed Asghar | naveed.sh.asghar@sh.se

Abstract

Ixodes ricinus, a common tick in Europe, transmits severe tickborne pathogens (TBPs). In Sweden, both prevalence and incidence of tick-borne infections have increased during the last few decades, and a majority of the cases is reported from the area around Stockholm. Among ticks, transmission of TBPs involves co-feeding of susceptible larvae or nymphs with infected ticks on the same host. Seasonal synchrony of immature stages and total tick abundance are important factors for the probability of horizontal transmission of TBPs. We have studied the association between local landscape characteristics and population dynamics and the probability of co-occurrence of different life cycle stages of I. ricinus at different locations south of Stockholm, Sweden. We found significant spatiotemporal variation in tick activity patterns. Mean tick abundance varied with a tenfold difference among study sites. The probability of co-occurrence of larvae, nymphs and female adults was highest in June and decreased significantly with vegetation height. In addition, the amount of forest habitat and open water in the surrounding landscape of the study sites expressed significant negative effects on tick abundance and co-occurrence, indicating that environmental heterogeneity may increase the likelihood of good rodent habitats, which in turn, are suitable hosts for immature ticks.

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