Landscape Design Guidelines for Mitigating Human Rick of Exposure to Lone Star Tick-Associated Pathogens

SUMMARY Recent research suggests that the sustainable management of healthy ecosystems may yield an important, previously under-recognized ecosystem service in the form of buffering humans against exposure to emerging vector-borne diseases. Studies from ecosystems across the world have shown that human alteration of natural landscapes can create hotspots for emerging zoonotic diseases through a complex pathway of ecological interactions of hosts and vectors, and that sustainable ecosystem management needs to take this into consideration. Here, we propose to investigate the impacts of human-mediated ecosystem alterations in the Saint Louis, Missouri region on the emergence of tick-borne diseases. Specifically, we will explore patterns in human land-use and development and global change on the structure of ecosystems and their propensity to provide favorable environments for the emergence of ticks and tick-borne pathogens. Further, in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, we will consider the human health impact of landscape change by comparing field-derived data of tick-borne disease risk to the distribution of human disease incidence. We will use these data to develop predictive models of the potential impacts of future landscape change on human health, thereby generating recommendations for sustainable land management in Midwestern ecosystems. Within the context of this research we will develop research opportunities for undergraduates and local high school research interns, as well as demonstration activities for the Saint Louis community on the ecology of tick-borne diseases and the connections between environmental change and human health.

Lead Investigator: 
Other Investigator(s): 
Emergent Properties
St. Louis, MO
Temporal Scope: 
Two years
Spatial Scope: 
Urban-to-rural gradient
Natural System: 
Eastern deciduous oak-hickory forest
Human System: 
St. Louis, MO Metro Area