Old Health Risks in New Places? an Ecological Niche Model for I. Ricinus Tick Distribution in Europe Under a Changing Climate

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Climate change will likely have impacts on disease vector distribution. Posing a significant health threat in the 21st century, risk of tick-borne diseases may increase with higher annual mean temperatures and changes in precipitation. We modeled the current and future potential distribution of the Ixodes ricinus tick species in Europe. The Genetic Algorithm for Rule-set Prediction (GARP) was utilized to predict potential distributions of I. ricinus based on current (1990-2010 averages) and future (2040-2060 averages) environmental variables. A ten model best subset was created out of a possible 200 models based on omission and commission criteria. Our results show that under the A2 climate change scenario the potential habitat range for the I. ricinus tick in Europe will expand into higher elevations and latitudes (e.g., Scandinavia, the Baltics, and Belarus), while contracting in other areas (e.g., Alps, Pyrenees, interior Italy, and northwestern Poland). Overall, a potential habitat expansion of 3.8% in all of Europe is possible. Our results may be used to inform climate change adaptation efforts in Europe.