Fire, Ticks, and the Biogeography of Lyme Disease

Authors: Mark Blumler*, SUNY-Binghamton, Shane Tripp, SUNY-Binghamton
Topics: Biogeography, Medical and Health Geography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Fire Ecology, Emerging Diseases, Invasive Species
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Lafayette, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 41st Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Lyme disease is a severe and growing problem, and one for which the public health response is entirely inadequate. Most scientific research has treated lyme and the ticks that carry it as in equilibrium with environment. But, as Blumler (2003) demonstrated, they are spreading geographically. In effect, the deer tick is a native “invading species”. Historically (and pre-historically) fire was employed to control tick numbers, and probably constrained tick dispersal as well. In this presentation, we document and model patterns of spread of the ticks and the disease at various spatial scales. We also present results of a pilot study on the effects of prescribed fire on tick densities on Pennsylvania Game Lands near State College. These data suggest that fire indeed reduces tick density, and therefore potentially the incidence of lyme disease.

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