Possible Effects of Climate Change on Ixodid Ticks and the Pathogens They Transmit: Predictions and Observations

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Ogden, Nicholas H.
Ben Beard, C.
Ginsberg, Howard S.
Tsao, Jean I.
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Abstract The global climate has been changing over the last century due to greenhouse gas emissions and will continue to change over this century, accelerating without effective global efforts to reduce emissions. Ticks and tick-borne diseases (TTBDs) are inherently climate-sensitive due to the sensitivity of tick lifecycles to climate. Key direct climate and weather sensitivities include survival of individual ticks, and the duration of development and host-seeking activity of ticks. These sensitivities mean that in some regions a warming climate may increase tick survival, shorten life-cycles and lengthen the duration of tick activity seasons. Indirect effects of climate change on host communities may, with changes in tick abundance, facilitate enhanced transmission of tick-borne pathogens. High temperatures, and extreme weather events (heat, cold, and flooding) are anticipated with climate change, and these may reduce tick survival and pathogen transmission in some locations. Studies of the possible effects of climate change on TTBDs to date generally project poleward range expansion of geographical ranges (with possible contraction of ranges away from the increasingly hot tropics), upslope elevational range spread in mountainous regions, and increased abundance of ticks in many current endemic regions. However, relatively few studies, using long-term (multi-decade) observations, provide evidence of recent range changes of tick populations that could be attributed to recent climate change. Further integrated ‘One Health’ observational and modeling studies are needed to detect changes in TTBD occurrence, attribute them to climate change, and to develop predictive models of public- and animal-health needs to plan for TTBD emergence.