Effects of conservation management of landscapes and vertebrate communities on lyme borreliosis risk in the United Kingdom

Caroline Millins*, Lucy Gilbert, Jolyon Medlock, Kayleigh Hansford, Des Ba Thompson, Roman Biek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Landscape change and altered host abundance are major drivers of zoonotic pathogen emergence. Conservation and biodiversity management of landscapes and vertebrate communities can have secondary effects on vector-borne pathogen transmission that are important to assess. Here we review the potential implications of these activities on the risk of Lyme borreliosis in the United Kingdom. Conservation management activities include woodland expansion, management and restoration, deer management, urban greening and the release and culling of non-native species. Available evidence suggests that increasing woodland extent, implementing biodiversity policies that encourage ecotonal habitat and urban greening can increase the risk of Lyme borreliosis by increasing suitable habitat for hosts and the tick vectors. However, this can depend on whether deer population management is carried out as part of these conservation activities. Exclusion fencing or culling deer to low densities can decrease tick abundance and Lyme borreliosis risk. As management actions often constitute large-scale perturbation experiments, these hold great potential to understand underlying drivers of tick and pathogen dynamics. We recommend integrating monitoring of ticks and the risk of tick-borne pathogens with conservation management activities. This would help fill knowledge gaps and the production of best practice guidelines to reduce risks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20160123
JournalPhilosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
Issue number1722
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
C.M. received support from the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Glasgow and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Doctoral Training grant (BB/F016786/1). J.M. was partly funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Environmental Change and Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in partnership with Public Health England (PHE), and in collaboration with the University of Exeter, University College London, and the Met Office; and partly funded by the NIHR HPRU on Emerging Infections and Zoonoses at the University of Liverpool in partnership with PHE and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Health Service, the NIHR, the Department of Health, or PHE. L.G. was supported by the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS). Thank you to the Red Squirrel Survival Trust for giving permission to use maps of grey and red squirrel distribution in the UK. The illustration in figure 1 was created by Diogo Guerra, www.diogoguerra.com. Thank you to anonymous reviewers who provided valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation management
  • Ixodes
  • Lyme borreliosis


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