Climate change and the potential for range expansion of the Lyme disease vector Ixodes scapularis in Canada

Int J Parasitol. 2006 Jan;36(1):63-70. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2005.08.016. Epub 2005 Oct 5.


We used an Ixodes scapularis population model to investigate potential northward spread of the tick associated with climate change. Annual degree-days >0 degrees C limits for I. scapularis establishment, obtained from tick population model simulations, were mapped using temperatures projected for the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s by two Global Climate Models (the Canadian CGCM2 and the UK HadCM3) for two greenhouse gas emission scenario enforcings 'A2'and 'B2' of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Under scenario 'A2' using either climate model, the theoretical range for I. scapularis establishment moved northwards by approximately 200 km by the 2020s and 1000 km by the 2080s. Reductions in emissions (scenario 'B2') had little effect on projected range expansion up to the 2050s, but the range expansion projected to occur between the 2050s and 2080s was less than that under scenario 'A2'. When the tick population model was driven by projected annual temperature cycles (obtained using CGCM2 under scenario 'A2'), tick abundance almost doubled by the 2020s at the current northern limit of I. scapularis, suggesting that the threshold numbers of immigrating ticks needed to establish new populations will fall during the coming decades. The projected degrees of theoretical range expansion and increased tick survival by the 2020s, suggest that actual range expansion of I. scapularis may be detectable within the next two decades. Seasonal tick activity under climate change scenarios was consistent with maintenance of endemic cycles of the Lyme disease agent in newly established tick populations. The geographic range of I. scapularis-borne zoonoses may, therefore, expand significantly northwards as a consequence of climate change this century.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachnid Vectors / parasitology*
  • Canada
  • Climate*
  • Forecasting
  • Greenhouse Effect
  • Humans
  • Ixodes / parasitology*
  • Lyme Disease / parasitology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Population Dynamics
  • Seasons
  • Temperature
  • Tick Infestations / parasitology
  • Zoonoses / parasitology*