Effects of global changes on the climatic niche of the tick Ixodes ricinus inferred by species distribution modelling

Daniele Porretta, Valentina Mastrantonio, Sara Amendolia, Stefano Gaiarsa, Sara Epis, Claudio Genchi, Claudio Bandi, Domenico Otranto, Sandra Urbanelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Global climate change can seriously impact on the epidemiological dynamics of vector-borne diseases. In this study we investigated how future climatic changes could affect the climatic niche of Ixodes ricinus (Acari, Ixodida), among the most important vectors of pathogens of medical and veterinary concern in Europe. Methods. Species Distribution Modelling (SDM) was used to reconstruct the climatic niche of I. ricinus, and to project it into the future conditions for 2050 and 2080, under two scenarios: a continuous human demographic growth and a severe increase of gas emissions (scenario A2), and a scenario that proposes lower human demographic growth than A2, and a more sustainable gas emissions (scenario B2). Models were reconstructed using the algorithm of "maximum entropy", as implemented in the software Maxent 3.3.3e; 4,544 occurrence points and 15 bioclimatic variables were used. Results: In both scenarios an increase of climatic niche of about two times greater than the current area was predicted as well as a higher climatic suitability under the scenario B2 than A2. Such an increase occurred both in a latitudinal and longitudinal way, including northern Eurasian regions (e.g. Sweden and Russia), that were previously unsuitable for the species. Conclusions: Our models are congruent with the predictions of range expansion already observed in I. ricinus at a regional scale and provide a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the future climatically suitable areas for I. ricinus at a continental scale. Although the use of SDM at a higher resolution should be integrated by a more refined analysis of further abiotic and biotic data, the results presented here suggest that under future climatic scenarios most of the current distribution area of I. ricinus could remain suitable and significantly increase at a continental geographic scale. Therefore disease outbreaks of pathogens transmitted by this tick species could emerge in previous non-endemic geographic areas. Further studies will implement and refine present data toward a better understanding of the risk represented by I. ricinus to human health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number271
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Climatic changes
  • Erlichiosis and tick-borne encephalitis
  • Future climatic niche
  • Lyme disease
  • Species distribution modeling
  • Tick
  • Vector-borne disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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