Spatially-Explicit Simulation Modeling of Ecological Response to Climate Change: Methodological Considerations in Predicting Shifting Population Dynamics of Infectious Disease Vectors.
ABSTRACT: Poikilothermic disease vectors can respond to altered climates through spatial changes in both population size and phenology. Quantitative descriptors to characterize, analyze and visualize these dynamic responses are lacking, particularly across large spatial domains. In order to demonstrate the value of a spatially explicit, dynamic modeling approach, we assessed spatial changes in the population dynamics of Ixodes scapularis, the Lyme disease vector, using a temperature-forced population model simulated across a grid of 4 × 4 km cells covering the eastern United States, using both modeled (Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) 3.2.1) baseline/current (2001-2004) and projected (Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 and RCP 8.5; 2057-2059) climate data. Ten dynamic population features (DPFs) were derived from simulated populations and analyzed spatially to characterize the regional population response to current and future climate across the domain. Each DPF under the current climate was assessed for its ability to discriminate observed Lyme disease risk and known vector presence/absence, using data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Peak vector population and month of peak vector population were the DPFs that performed best as predictors of current Lyme disease risk. When examined under baseline and projected climate scenarios, the spatial and temporal distributions of DPFs shift and the seasonal cycle of key questing life stages is compressed under some scenarios. Our results demonstrate the utility of spatial characterization, analysis and visualization of dynamic population responses-including altered phenology-of disease vectors to altered climate.
Project description:A number of studies have assessed possible climate change impacts on the Lyme disease vector, Ixodes scapularis. However, most have used surface air temperature from only one climate model simulation and/or one emission scenario, representing only one possible climate future.We quantified effects of different Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) and climate model outputs on the projected future changes in the basic reproduction number (R0) of I. scapularis to explore uncertainties in future R0 estimates.We used surface air temperature generated by a complete set of General Circulation Models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) to hindcast historical (1971-2000), and to forecast future effects of climate change on the R0 of I. scapularis for the periods 2011-2040 and 2041-2070.Increases in the multimodel mean values estimated for both future periods, relative to 1971-2000, were statistically significant under all RCP scenarios for all of Nova Scotia, areas of New Brunswick and Quebec, Ontario south of 47°N, and Manitoba south of 52°N. When comparing RCP scenarios, only the estimated R0 mean values between RCP6.0 and RCP8.5 showed statistically significant differences for any future time period.Our results highlight the potential for climate change to have an effect on future Lyme disease risk in Canada even if the Paris Agreement's goal to keep global warming below 2°C is achieved, although mitigation reducing emissions from RCP8.5 levels to those of RCP6.0 or less would be expected to slow tick invasion after the 2030s. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP57.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Understanding the drivers of Lyme disease incidence at broad spatial scales is critical for predicting and mitigating human disease risk. Previous studies have identified vector phenology and behavior, host community composition, and landscape features as drivers of variable Lyme disease risk. However, while the Lyme disease transmission cycles in the eastern and western USA involve different vector species (Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus, respectively), the role of vector-specific differences in transmission efficiency has not been directly examined. By comparing the performance of traits involved in vector competence between these two species, this study aims to identify how vector competence contributes to variable Lyme disease risk. METHODS:We used a suite of laboratory experiments to compare the performance of traits related to vector competence for the two USA Lyme disease vectors. For each species, we measured the rate of attachment to a common rodent host, the engorgement weight, and the efficiency of pathogen acquisition (host to tick) and pathogen transmission (tick to host) from laboratory mice. In measuring pathogen acquisition and transmission, we used two different pathogen strains, one sympatric with I. scapularis and one sympatric with I. pacificus, to assess the importance of vector-pathogen coevolutionary history in transmission dynamics. RESULTS:We found I. pacificus had significantly higher host attachment success and engorgement weights, but significantly lower pathogen transmission efficiency relative to I. scapularis. Molting success and pathogen acquisition did not differ between these two species. However, pathogen acquisition efficiency was significantly higher for both sympatric vector and pathogen strains than the allopatric pairings. CONCLUSIONS:This study identified species-specific vector traits as a potential driver of broad scale variation in Lyme disease risk in the USA. In particular, the exceedingly low rates of pathogen transmission from tick to host observed for I. pacificus may limit Lyme disease transmission efficiency in the western USA. Further, observed variation in pathogen acquisition between sympatric and allopatric vector-pathogen strains indicate that vector-pathogen coevolutionary history may play a key role in transmission dynamics. These findings underscore the need to consider vector traits and vector-pathogen coevolution as important factors governing regional Lyme disease risk.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The extent to which climate change may affect human health by increasing risk from vector-borne diseases has been under considerable debate. OBJECTIVES: We quantified potential effects of future climate change on the basic reproduction number (R0) of the tick vector of Lyme disease, Ixodes scapularis, and explored their importance for Lyme disease risk, and for vector-borne diseases in general. METHODS: We applied observed temperature data for North America and projected temperatures using regional climate models to drive an I. scapularis population model to hindcast recent, and project future, effects of climate warming on R0. Modeled R0 increases were compared with R0 ranges for pathogens and parasites associated with variations in key ecological and epidemiological factors (obtained by literature review) to assess their epidemiological importance. RESULTS: R0 for I. scapularis in North America increased during the years 1971-2010 in spatio-temporal patterns consistent with observations. Increased temperatures due to projected climate change increased R0 by factors (2-5 times in Canada and 1.5-2 times in the United States), comparable to observed ranges of R0 for pathogens and parasites due to variations in strains, geographic locations, epidemics, host and vector densities, and control efforts. CONCLUSIONS: Climate warming may have co-driven the emergence of Lyme disease in northeastern North America, and in the future may drive substantial disease spread into new geographic regions and increase tick-borne disease risk where climate is currently suitable. Our findings highlight the potential for climate change to have profound effects on vectors and vector-borne diseases, and the need to refocus efforts to understand these effects.
Project description:Lyme disease is the most prevalent vector-borne disease in the temperate Northern Hemisphere. The abundance of infected nymphal ticks is commonly used as a Lyme disease risk indicator. Temperature can influence the dynamics of disease by shaping the activity and development of ticks and, hence, altering the contact pattern and pathogen transmission between ticks and their host animals. A mechanistic, agent-based model was developed to study the temperature-driven seasonality of Ixodes ricinus ticks and transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato across mainland Scotland. Based on 12-year averaged temperature surfaces, our model predicted that Lyme disease risk currently peaks in autumn, approximately six weeks after the temperature peak. The risk was predicted to decrease with increasing altitude. Increases in temperature were predicted to prolong the duration of the tick questing season and expand the risk area to higher altitudinal and latitudinal regions. These predicted impacts on tick population ecology may be expected to lead to greater tick-host contacts under climate warming and, hence, greater risks of pathogen transmission. The model is useful in improving understanding of the spatial determinants and system mechanisms of Lyme disease pathogen transmission and its sensitivity to temperature changes.
Project description:Global environmental changes are causing Lyme disease to emerge in Europe. The life cycle of Ixodes ricinus, the tick vector of Lyme disease, involves an ontogenetic niche shift, from the larval and nymphal stages utilizing a wide range of hosts, picking up the pathogens causing Lyme disease from small vertebrates, to the adult stage depending on larger (non-transmission) hosts, typically deer. Because of this complexity the role of different host species for emergence of Lyme disease remains controversial. Here, by analysing long-term data on incidence in humans over a broad geographical scale in Norway, we show that both high spatial and temporal deer population density increase Lyme disease incidence. However, the trajectories of deer population sizes play an overall limited role for the recent emergence of the disease. Our study suggests that managing deer populations will have some effect on disease incidence, but that Lyme disease may nevertheless increase as multiple drivers are involved.
Project description:Changes in body size and breeding phenology have been identified as two major ecological consequences of climate change, yet it remains unclear whether climate acts directly or indirectly on these variables. To better understand the relationship between climate and ecological changes, it is necessary to determine environmental predictors of both size and phenology using data from prior to the onset of rapid climate warming, and then to examine spatially explicit changes in climate, size, and phenology, not just general spatial and temporal trends. We used 100 years of natural history collection data for the wood frog, Lithobates sylvaticus with a range >9 million km2, and spatially explicit environmental data to determine the best predictors of size and phenology prior to rapid climate warming (1901-1960). We then tested how closely size and phenology changes predicted by those environmental variables reflected actual changes from 1961 to 2000. Size, phenology, and climate all changed as expected (smaller, earlier, and warmer, respectively) at broad spatial scales across the entire study range. However, while spatially explicit changes in climate variables accurately predicted changes in phenology, they did not accurately predict size changes during recent climate change (1961-2000), contrary to expectations from numerous recent studies. Our results suggest that changes in climate are directly linked to observed phenological shifts. However, the mechanisms driving observed body size changes are yet to be determined, given the less straightforward relationship between size and climate factors examined in this study. We recommend that caution be used in "space-for-time" studies where measures of a species' traits at lower latitudes or elevations are considered representative of those under future projected climate conditions. Future studies should aim to determine mechanisms driving trends in phenology and body size, as well as the impact of climate on population density, which may influence body size.
Project description:Dengue fever is a major international public health concern, with more than 55% of the world population at risk of infection. Recent climate changes related to global warming have increased the potential risk of domestic outbreaks of dengue in Korea. In this study, we develop a two-strain dengue model associated with climate-dependent parameters based on Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios provided by the Korea Meteorological Administration. We assess the potential risks of dengue outbreaks by means of the vector capacity and intensity under various RCP scenarios. A sensitivity analysis of the temperature-dependent parameters is performed to explore the effects of climate change on dengue transmission dynamics. Our results demonstrate that a higher temperature significantly enhances the potential threat of domestic dengue outbreaks in Korea. Furthermore, we investigate the effects of countermeasures on the cumulative incidence of humans and vectors. The current main control measures (comprising only travel restrictions) for infected humans in Korea are not as effective as combined control measures (travel restrictions and vector control), dramatically reducing the possibilities of dengue outbreaks.
Project description:Climate change is shifting both the habitat suitability and the timing of critical biological events, such as flowering and fruiting, for plant species across the globe. Here, we ask how both the distribution and phenology of three food-producing shrubs native to northwestern North America might shift as the climate changes. To address this question, we compared gridded climate data with species location data to identify climate variables that best predicted the current bioclimatic niches of beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), and salal (Gaultheria shallon). We also developed thermal-sum models for the timing of flowering and fruit ripening for these species. We then used multi-model ensemble future climate projections to estimate how species range and phenology may change under future conditions. Modelling efforts showed extreme minimum temperature, climate moisture deficit, and mean summer precipitation were predictive of climatic suitability across all three species. Future bioclimatic niche models project substantial reductions in habitat suitability across the lower elevation and southern portions of the species' current ranges by the end of the 21st century. Thermal-sum phenology models for these species indicate that flowering and the ripening of fruits and nuts will advance an average of 25 days by the mid-21st century, and 36 days by the late-21st century under a high emissions scenario (RCP 8.5). Future changes in the climatic niche and phenology of these important food-producing species may alter trophic relationships, with cascading impacts on regional ecosystems.
Project description:Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. Lyme disease occurrence is highly seasonal and the annual springtime onset of cases is modulated by meteorological conditions in preceding months. A meteorological-based empirical model for Lyme disease onset week in the United States is driven with downscaled simulations from five global climate models and four greenhouse gas emissions scenarios to project the impacts of 21st century climate change on the annual onset week of Lyme disease. Projections are made individually and collectively for the 12 eastern States where >90% of cases occur. The national average annual onset week of Lyme disease is projected to become 0.4-0.5 weeks earlier for 2025-2040 (p<0.05), and 0.7-1.9 weeks earlier for 2065-2080 (p<0.01), with the largest shifts for scenarios with the highest greenhouse gas emissions. The more southerly mid-Atlantic States exhibit larger shifts (1.0-3.5 weeks) compared to the Northeastern and upper Midwestern States (0.2-2.3 weeks) by 2065-2080. Winter and spring temperature increases primarily cause the earlier onset. Greater spring precipitation and changes in humidity partially counteract the temperature effects. The model does not account for the possibility that abrupt shifts in the life cycle of Ixodes scapularis, the primary vector of the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi in the eastern United States, may alter the disease transmission cycle in unforeseen ways. The results suggest 21st century climate change will make environmental conditions suitable for earlier annual onset of Lyme disease cases in the United States with possible implications for the timing of public health interventions.
Project description:Vector-borne microbes necessarily co-occur with their hosts and vectors, but the degree to which they share common evolutionary or biogeographic histories remains unexplored. We examine the congruity of the evolutionary and biogeographic histories of the bacterium and vector of the Lyme disease system, the most prevalent vector-borne disease in North America. In the eastern and midwestern US, Ixodes scapularis ticks are the primary vectors of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Our phylogeographic and demographic analyses of the 16S mitochondrial rDNA suggest that northern I. scapularis populations originated from very few migrants from the southeastern US that expanded rapidly in the Northeast and subsequently in the Midwest after the recession of the Pleistocene ice sheets. Despite this historical gene flow, current tick migration is restricted even between proximal sites within regions. In contrast, B. burgdorferi suffers no barriers to gene flow within the northeastern and midwestern regions but shows clear interregional migration barriers. Despite the intimate association of B. burgdorferi and I. scapularis, the population structure, evolutionary history, and historical biogeography of the pathogen are all contrary to its arthropod vector. In the case of Lyme disease, movements of infected vertebrate hosts may play a larger role in the contemporary expansion and homogenization of the pathogen than the movement of tick vectors whose populations continue to bear the historical signature of climate-induced range shifts.