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Keywords:

  • Ixodes ricinus;
  • climate trends;
  • elasticity;
  • impact;
  • matrix model

Abstract

A stage-structured Leslie matrix model of a partial, discrete population of Ixodes ricinus (Linnaeus) (Ixodida: Ixodidae) ticks was developed to elucidate the impact of climate trends on the distribution and phenology of this species in the western Palaearctic. The model calculates development and mortality rates for each instar and evaluates recruitment rates based on the development of the tick population. The model captures the changes in development and mortality rates, providing a coherent index of performance correlated with the tick's geographic range. Maximum development rates are recorded for latitudes south of 36 °N and are spatially correlated with sites of maximum temperature, highest saturation deficit and highest mortality. The maximum available developmental time (the total annual time during which temperature allows development) for I. ricinus in the western Palaearctic is < 45% of the total year. North of 60 °N, available developmental time decreases sharply to only 15% of the year. The latitudinal boundary at which survival rates sharply drop is 43–46 °N, clearly delimiting the classically recognized extent of the main tick populations. The pattern of activity for larval–nymphal synchrony shows a clear west–east pattern. The model demonstrates the impact of climate according to tick stage and geographic location, and provides a practical framework for testing how the tick's lifecycle is affected by climate change.