The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Human – environment interactions and the epidemiological periurban landscape of tick – borne diseases.

Project leader: Patrik Dinnetz
Starting year: 2019

The general aim of this multidisciplinary research project is to increase the knowledge and understanding of how landscape characteristics, land use change and human behavior can affect spatial variation in risks of tick-borne disease in peri-urban areas, in order to inform planning and management decisions focusing on the Baltic Sea Region. Tick-borne diseases are the most common vector-borne diseases in Europe, and the tick Ixodes ricinus transmits several zoonotic agents to humans and animals where the most well-known are Borrelia spp, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV). In the Baltic Sea region the incidence of tick-borne diseases has recently increased, partly due to climate change and landscape transformation, but also due to socio-economic and political changes affecting land use patterns and human behavior. Peri-urban green spaces are of particular interest being an interface between human activity, and the surrounding landscape. The complex relationships between the environment and the host?vector?pathogens requires a multidisciplinary approach, and a variety of data sources will be used to map areas of transmission of the tick-borne diseases. Our main research questions are: • What are the most important landscape characters in peri-urban areas in the hemiboreal zone acting as drivers for the risk of infection of the tick-borne diseases borrelia, anaplasmosis, and TBE, for domesticated animals and humans? • Are the drivers for co-infection by the different pathogens different from drivers for single infections? and • How can infection risk for tick?borne diseases be mediated by human behavior? Peri-urban case study areas will be selected in Sweden, Finland, and Estonia comparing different environmental settings, human behaviors and disease distributions. The study will be based on empirical data from field studies, interviews, archival data, land cover data, and official national reporting. All collected ticks will be and analyzed for tick borne pathogens. All data will be gathered in a Geographic Information System (GIS) to enable spatial analysis, and to extract data for statistical analysis of relationships between land cover, tick abundances, diseases distributions, and risk for infections. The expected result will be valuable for future planning of sustainable environmental management, handling conflicts between ecosystem services and disservices.