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Evol Appl. 2014 Aug;7(7):750-64. doi: 10.1111/eva.12165. Epub 2014 May 7.

Climate change and habitat fragmentation drive the occurrence of Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease, at the northeastern limit of its distribution.

Author information

1
Redpath Museum, McGill University Montreal, QC, Canada.
2
Redpath Museum, McGill University Montreal, QC, Canada ; Department of Biology, McGill University Montreal, QC, Canada.
3
Ministère du Développement Durable, de l'Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec City, QC, Canada.
4
Département des Sciences Biologiques, Université de Montréal Montréal, QC, Canada.
5
Department of Biology, McGill University Montreal, QC, Canada.
6
Zoonoses Division, Centre for Food-Borne, Environmental & Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Public Health Agency of Canada Saint-Hyacinthe, QC, Canada.
7
Groupe de recherche en épidémiologie des zoonoses et santé publique Faculté de Médecine Vétérinaire, Université de Montréal Saint-Hyacinthe, QC, Canada.
8
Zoonoses & Special Pathogens Division, National Microbiology Laboratory, Public Health Agency of Canada Winnipeg, MB, Canada.
9
Ouranos Consortium Montreal, QC, Canada.
10
Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec Longueuil, QC, Canada.
11
Redpath Museum, McGill University Montreal, QC, Canada ; Département des Sciences Biologiques, Université de Montréal Montréal, QC, Canada.

Abstract

Lyme borreliosis is rapidly emerging in Canada, and climate change is likely a key driver of the northern spread of the disease in North America. We used field and modeling approaches to predict the risk of occurrence of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria causing Lyme disease in North America. We combined climatic and landscape variables to model the current and future (2050) potential distribution of the black-legged tick and the white-footed mouse at the northeastern range limit of Lyme disease and estimated a risk index for B. burgdorferi from these distributions. The risk index was mostly constrained by the distribution of the white-footed mouse, driven by winter climatic conditions. The next factor contributing to the risk index was the distribution of the black-legged tick, estimated from the temperature. Landscape variables such as forest habitat and connectivity contributed little to the risk index. We predict a further northern expansion of B. burgdorferi of approximately 250-500 km by 2050 - a rate of 3.5-11 km per year - and identify areas of rapid rise in the risk of occurrence of B. burgdorferi. Our results will improve understanding of the spread of Lyme disease and inform management strategies at the most northern limit of its distribution.

KEYWORDS:

Lyme disease; climate change; emergence; habitat fragmentation; range shift; white-footed mouse

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