Projecting the potential distribution of ticks in China under climate and land use change

Int J Parasitol. 2021 Aug;51(9):749-759. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2021.01.004. Epub 2021 Mar 31.


Ticks are known as vectors of several pathogens causing various human and animal diseases including Lyme borreliosis, tick-borne encephalitis, and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever. While China is known to have more than 100 tick species well distributed over the country, our knowledge on the likely distribution of ticks in the future remains very limited, which hinders the prevention and control of the risk of tick-borne diseases. In this study, we selected four representative tick species which have different regional distribution foci in mainland China. i.e., Dermacentor marginatus, Dermacentor silvarum, Haemaphysalis longicornis and Ixodes granulatus. We used the MaxEnt model to identify the key environmental factors of tick occurrence and map their potential distributions in 2050 under four combined climate and socioeconomic scenarios (i.e., SSP1-RCP2.6, SSP2-RCP4.5, SSP3-RCP7.0 and SSP5-RCP8.5). We found that the extent of the urban fabric, cropland and forest, temperature annual range and precipitation of the driest month were the main determinants of the potential distributions of the four tick species. Under the combined scenarios, with climate warming, the potential distributions of ticks shifted to further north in China. Due to a decrease in the extent of forest, the distribution probability of ticks declined in central and southern China. In contrast with previous findings on an estimated amplification of tick distribution probability under the extreme emission scenario (RCP8.5), our studies projected an overall reduction in the distribution probability under RCP8.5, owing to an expected effect of land use. Our results could provide new data to help identify the emerging risk areas, with amplifying suitability for tick occurrence, for the prevention and control of tick-borne zoonoses in mainland China. Future directions are suggested towards improved quantity and quality of the tick occurrence database, comprehensiveness of factors and integration of different modelling approaches, and capability to model pathogen spillover at the human-tick interface.

Keywords: China; Climate change; Land use change; MaxEnt; Potential distribution; Ticks.