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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Associating Land Cover Changes with Patterns of Incidences of Climate-Sensitive Infections: An Example on Tick-Borne Diseases in the Nordic Area

Leibovici, Didier G.; Bylund, Helena; Björkman, Christer; Tokarevich, Nikolay; Thierfelder, Tomas; Evengård, Birgitta; Quegan, Shaun


Some of the climate-sensitive infections (CSIs) affecting humans are zoonotic vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme borreliosis (BOR) and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), mostly linked to various species of ticks as vectors. Due to climate change, the geographical distribution of tick species, their hosts, and the prevalence of pathogens are likely to change. A recent increase in human incidences of these CSIs in the Nordic regions might indicate an expansion of the range of ticks and hosts, with vegetation changes acting as potential predictors linked to habitat suitability. In this paper, we study districts in Fennoscandia and Russia where incidences of BOR and TBE have steadily increased over the 1995–2015 period (defined as ’Well Increasing districts’). This selection is taken as a proxy for increasing the prevalence of tick-borne pathogens due to increased habitat suitability for ticks and hosts, thus simplifying the multiple factors that explain incidence variations. This approach allows vegetation types and strengths of correlation specific to the WI districts to be differentiated and compared with associations found over all districts. Land cover types and their changes found to be associated with increasing human disease incidence are described, indicating zones with potential future higher risk of these diseases. Combining vegetation cover and climate variables in regression models shows the interplay of biotic and abiotic factors linked to CSI incidences and identifies some differences between BOR and TBE. Regression model projections up until 2070 under different climate scenarios depict possible CSI progressions within the studied area and are consistent with the observed changes over the past 20 years.


climate-sensitive infection; vector-borne disease; tick-borne disease; climate change; land cover; vegetation type; Nordic; Fennoscandia

Published in

International journal of environmental research and public health
2021, volume: 18, number: 20, article number: 10963

Authors' information

Leibovici, Didier G.
University of Sheffield
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Tokarevich, Nikolay
Federal State Institution Saint Petersburg Pasteur Research Institute of Epidemiology and Mictobiology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Energy and Technology
Evengård, Birgitta
Umeå University
Quegan, Shaun
University of Sheffield

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action
SDG3 Good health and wellbeing

UKÄ Subject classification

Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Climate Research

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