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Harvard Forest REU Symposium Abstract 2017

  • Title: Prevalence of ticks in harvested versus unharvested forest plots
  • Author: Aaron J Aguila (University of Florida)
  • Abstract:

    Climate and land-use change are contributing to the spread of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease from its native Northeastern United States range to other parts of the country. Although Lyme disease risk is known to be higher in fragmented forests, less is known about how tick abundance and disease presence responds to the early successional habitats and down dead wood created by timber harvesting. To fill this gap, we sampled ticks and forest structure attributes in partially harvested hardwood forests, fully harvested plantations, and unharvested controls in each forest type (n=8 plots for each of the 4 types). Ticks were sampled using a drag-flag sampling protocol set forth by NEON. Overall tick abundance was much higher in fully harvested plots (p<0.001) but this was largely driven by Dermacentor variabilis (p<0.001) which is not a Lyme disease vector. There was no significant difference in the abundance of the Lyme disease vector Ixodes scapularis (p>0.05). Further analysis will explore habitat structure variables in fully harvested plots that may correlate with greater tick abundance, and the I. scapularis ticks collected will be tested for the presence of the Lyme disease bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. These results will be of importance to foresters and land owners interested in integrating disease prevention with forest management, public health agencies interested in predicting Lyme disease risk, and community members who enjoy spending time outdoors.

  • Research Category: Biodiversity Studies; Conservation and Management; Group Projects; Invasive Plants, Pests & Pathogens