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Keywords:

  • Climate;
  • habitat suitability;
  • historical analysis;
  • North America;
  • Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus;
  • South America

ABSTRACT

Aim  Climate change has the potential to have an impact on the distribution of ticks and tick-borne diseases. This paper identifies the changes in climate suitability for the tick Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus in the Americas by analysing climate data for the period 1950–99.

Location  The model was applied to the American continent.

Methods  A model based on Environmental Niche Modelling was used on a gridded (0.5°) long-term (1950–99) climate data set. A map of the core range of the species was constructed, and areas where habitat suitability (HS) changes suddenly over short time periods were identified as regions of high sensitivity. Tendency of climate in the continent was evaluated and scenarios constructed for 2025 and 2050.

Results  Regions of high sensitivity included the southern USA, Mexico and western and central Argentina. Analysis of climate variables in these regions identified water vapour pressure deficit and evaporation as underlying the high sensitivity of habitat suitability in the USA and Mexico, and showed that episodes of high variability are linked to the El Niño Southern Oscillation. Projections of the tendency of HS as observed for the 1950–99 period point to an increase in this value in parts of the southern USA and in central Argentina, a finding that can be attributed to the progressive increase in minimum and yearly averaged temperatures.

Conclusions  Short-term changes in climate may drive the system into unstable situations with sudden changes in habitat suitability for the target tick in specific zones of the Americas. Results suggest an increased abiotic (climate) suitability for R. microplus in areas whose habitat is currently unsuitable for this species.