Local habitat and landscape affect Ixodes ricinus tick abundances in forests on poor, sandy soils

TitleLocal habitat and landscape affect Ixodes ricinus tick abundances in forests on poor, sandy soils
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsTack W., Madder M., Baeten L., Vanhellemont M., Gruwez R., Verheyen K.
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Pagination30 - 36
Date Published2012///
KeywordsBorrelia, Deer, Habitat, Ixodes ricinus, Landscape
TagsBorrelia, Deer, Habitat, Ixodes ricinus, Landscape

A large fraction of the forests in northern Belgium consists of homogeneous pine stands on nutrient-poor and acid sandy soils. However, in common with many other parts of Europe, the current forest management aims at increasing the share of deciduous and mixed forests. This might create favourable habitats for the tick Ixodes ricinus, which is Europe's main vector of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the causative agent of Lyme borreliosis in humans. Considering the threat to human health, it is important to know which factors regulate tick abundance. The influence of local habitat and landscape variables on the abundance of I. ricinus ticks were studied by collecting questing larvae, nymphs, and adults at 176 locations in forests in the Campine region (northern Belgium). Both I. ricinus ticks and B. burgdorferi spirochetes occurred throughout the study area, which means that the entire region represents an area of risk for contracting Lyme borreliosis. At the forest stand level, the main tree species and the shrub cover significantly affected the abundance of all life stages of I. ricinus. The abundance was higher in oak stands compared to pine stands, and increased with increasing shrub cover. Additionally, at the landscape level, a positive effect was found for forest edge length but not for forest cover. These patterns may be explained by the habitat preferences of the tick's main hosts. Our results indicate that forest conversion might indeed create suitable habitats for ticks, which highlights the need for intensive information campaigns and effective tick control measures. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.


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