Recreation reduces tick density through fine-scale risk effects on deer space-use

B Mols*, J E Churchill, J P G M Cromsigt, D P J Kuijper, C Smit

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

3 Citaten (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


Altered interactions between pathogens, their hosts and vectors have potential consequences for human disease risk. Notably, tick-borne pathogens, many of which are associated with growing deer abundance, show global increasing prevalence and pose increasing challenges for disease prevention. Human activities can largely affect the patterns of deer space-use and can therefore be potential management tools to alleviate human-wildlife conflicts. Here, we tested how deer space-use patterns are influenced by human recreational activities, and how this in turn affects the spatial distribution of the sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus), a relevant disease vector of zoonoses such as Lyme borrelioses. We compared deer dropping and questing tick density on transects near (20 m) and further away from (100 m) forest trails that were either frequently used (open for recreation) or infrequently used (closed for recreation, but used by park managers). In contrast to infrequently used trails, deer dropping density was 31% lower near (20 m) than further away from (100 m) frequently used trails. Similarly, ticks were 62% less abundant near (20 m) frequently used trails compared to further away from (100 m) these trails, while this decline in tick numbers was only 14% near infrequently used trails. The avoidance by deer of areas close to human-used trails was thus associated with a similar reduction in questing tick density near these trails. As tick abundance generally correlates to pathogen prevalence, the use of trails for recreation may reduce tick-borne disease risk for humans on and near these trails. Our study reveals an unexplored effect of human activities on ecosystems and how this knowledge could be potentially used to mitigate zoonotic disease risk.

Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's9
TijdschriftScience of the Total Environment
Vroegere onlinedatum2022
StatusPublished - 15-sep.-2022

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