, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 591–602 | Cite as

Multi-criteria Decision Analysis to Model Ixodes ricinus Habitat Suitability

  • Raphaël RousseauEmail author
  • Guy McGrath
  • Barry J. McMahon
  • Sophie O. Vanwambeke
Original Contribution


Tick-borne diseases present a major threat to both human and livestock health throughout Europe. The risk of infection is directly related to the presence of its vector. Thereby it is important to know their distribution, which is strongly associated with environmental factors: the presence and availability of a suitable habitat, of a suitable climate and of hosts. The present study models the habitat suitability for Ixodes ricinus in Ireland, where data on tick distribution are scarce. Tick habitat suitability was estimated at a coarse scale (10 km) with a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) method according to four different scenarios (depending on the variables used and on the weights granted to each of them). The western part of Ireland and the Wicklow mountains in the East were estimated to be the most suitable areas for I. ricinus in the island. There was a good level of agreement between results from the MCDA and recorded tick presence. The different scenarios did not affect the spatial outputs substantially. The current study suggests that tick habitat suitability can be mapped accurately at a coarse scale in a data-scarce context using knowledge-based methods. It can serve as a guideline for future countrywide sampling that would help to determine local risk of tick presence and refining knowledge on tick habitat suitability in Ireland.


multi-criteria decision analysis tick-borne disease Ixodes ricinus risk modeling environmental factors Ireland 



The authors would like to acknowledge prof. Jeremy Gray for his help and comments about the results of the model developed here, and its applicability in Ireland and Eva De Clercq for her help and useful comments. The authors also warmly acknowledge Kieran Kenny, Niamh Dolan and Monica Robinson, for their work in the collection of tick records in Ireland that was realized during a group assignment at the University College Dublin (UCD). Their database is presented in the supplementary material.

Supplementary material

10393_2017_1247_MOESM1_ESM.docx (55 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 55 kb)


  1. Abdullah S, Helps C, Tasker S, Newbury H, Wall, R. (2016) Ticks infesting domestic dogs in the UK: a large-scale surveillance programme. Parasites and Vectors 9(391):1–9Google Scholar
  2. Allan BF, Keesing F, Ostfeld RS (2003) Effect of forest fragmentation on lyme disease risk. Conservation Biology 17:267–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barrett D, Collins DM, McGrath G, O Muireagain C (2012) Seroprevalence of Louping Ill virus (LIV) antibodies in sheep submitted for post mortem examination in the North West of Ireland in 2011. Irish Veterinary Journal 65:20–24CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Bowman AS, Nuttall PA (2008) Ticks: Biology, Disease and Control. Cambridge, London: Cambridge University PressCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brownstein JS, Holford TR, Fish D (2003) A climate-based model predicts the spatial distribution of the Lyme disease vector Ixodes scapularis in the United States. Environmental Health Perspectives 111:1152–1157CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Brownstein JS, Skelly DK, Holford TR, Fish D (2005) Forest fragmentation predicts local scale heterogeneity of Lyme disease risk. Oecologia 146:469–475CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Clements ACA, Pfeiffer DU, Martin V (2006) Application of knowledge-driven spatial modelling approaches and uncertainty management to a study of Rift Valley fever in Africa. International Journal of Health Geographics 5:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clements ACA, Pfeiffer DU (2009) Emerging viral zoonoses: frameworks for spatial and spatiotemporal risk assessment and resource planning. Veterinary Journal 182:21–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cullen E (2010) Lyme disease and climate change. Irish Medical Journal 103(4):101–102PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. DAFM (Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine) (2016) Fact Sheet on Irish Agriculture—June 2016. Accessed June 15, 2016
  11. Dobson ADM, Taylor JL, Randolph SE (2011) Tick (Ixodes ricinus) abundance and seasonality at recreational sites in the UK: Hazards in relation to fine-scale habitat types revealed by complementary sampling methods. Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases 2:67–74CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Dolan N, Kieran K, Robinson M (2014). The Benefits and Limitations of Developing a Tick Distribution map in Ireland, (AESC-40230) Group Assignment—Wildlife Management. UCD, Dublin, Ireland (unpublished report)Google Scholar
  13. EEA (2014) Corine land cover. Accessed June 14, 2015
  14. Estrada-Peña A, Venzal J (2006) Changes in habitat suitability for the tick Ixodes ricinus (Acari: Ixodidae) in Europe (1900–1999). Ecohealth 3:154–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Estrada-Peña A, Estrada-Sánchez A, Estrada-Sánchez D (2014) Methodological caveats in the environmental modelling and projections of climate niche for ticks, with examples for Ixodes ricinus (Ixodidae). Veterinary Parasitology 208(1):14–25PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Estrada-Peña A, Alexander N, Wint GRW (2016) Perspectives on modelling the distribution of ticks for large areas: so far so good? Parasites and Vectors 9:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Glass GE, Amerasinghe FP, Iii MM, Scotf AW (1994) Predicting Ixodes scapularis abundance on white-tailed deer using Geographic Information Systems. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 51:538–544CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Gray J, Turley T, Strickland K (1978) Studies on the ecology of sheep tick, Ixodes ricinus in Co. Wicklow, Ireland. Irish Veterinary Journal 32(2):25–34Google Scholar
  19. Gray J, Kahl O, Janetzki C, Stein J, Guy E (1995) The spatial distribution of Borrelia burgdorferi-infected Ixodes ricinus in the Connemara region of County Galway, Ireland. Experimental and Applied Acarology 19:163–172CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Gray J (1998) The ecology of ticks transmitting borreliosis Lyme. Experimental and Applied Acarology 22:249–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gray J, Kirstein F, Robertson JN, Stein J, Kahl O (1999) Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in Ixodes ricinus ticks and rodents in a recreational park in south-western Ireland. Experimental and Applied Acarology 23:717–729CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Gray J, Dautel H, Estrada-Peña A, Kahl O, Lindgren E (2009) Effects of climate change on ticks and tick-borne diseases in Europe. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Infectious Diseases 2009:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Greene R, Devillers R, Luther JE, Eddy BG (2011) GIS-based multiple-criteria decision analysis. Geography Compass 5:412–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Halperin JJ (2011) Lyme Disease: An Evidence-Based Approach. Cambridge, London: CABIGoogle Scholar
  25. Harrison A, Bown K, Montgomery W (2012) Anaplasma phagocytophilum in feral goats in Northern Ireland. Veterinary Record 170:602–603PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Hijmans RJ, Cameron SE, Parra JL, Jones PG, Jarvis A (2005) WORLDCLIM: very high resolution interpolated climate surfaces for global land areas. International Journal of Climatology 25:1965–1978CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hongoh V, Hoen A, Aenishaenslin C, Waaub J-P, Bélanger D, Michel P (2011) Spatially explicit multi-criteria decision analysis for managing vector-borne diseases. International Journal of Health Geographics 10:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jeffries CL, Mansfield KL, Phipps LP, Wakeley PR, Mearns R, Schock A, et al. (2014) Louping ill virus: an endemic tick-borne disease of Great Britain. Journal of General Virology 95:1005–1014CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  29. Jore S, Vanwambeke SO, Viljugrein H, Isaksen K, Kristoffersen AB, Woldehiwet Z, et al. (2014) Climate and environmental change drives Ixodes ricinus geographical expansion at the northern range margin. Parasites and Vectors 7(11):1–14Google Scholar
  30. Kirstein F, Rijpkema S, Molkenboer M, Gray JS (1997) The distribution and prevalence of B. burgdorferi genomospecies in Ixodes ricinus ticks in Ireland. European Journal of Epidemiology 13:67–72CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Lambin EF, Tran A, Vanwambeke SO, Linard C, Soti V (2010) Pathogenic landscapes: interactions between land, people, disease vectors, and their animal hosts. International Journal of Health Geographics 9(54):1–13Google Scholar
  32. Lindgren E, Jaenson TGT (2006) Lyme borreliosis in Europe: influences of climate and climate change, epidemiology, ecology and adaptation measures. World Health Organization, 35. Accessed June 19, 2015
  33. Malczewski J (2000) Review article on the use of weighted linear combination method in GIS: common and best practice approaches. Transactions in GIS 4:5–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Malczewski J (2006) GIS-based multicriteria decision analysis: a survey of the literature. International Journal of Geographical Information Science 20(7):703–726CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Malczewski J (2011) Local weighted linear combination. Transactions in GIS 15(4):439–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McGarigal K, Cushman S, Ene E (2012) FRAGSTATS v4: spatial pattern analysis program for categorical and continuous maps. Computer software program produced by the authors at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Accessed April 14, 2016
  37. McKeown P (2016) Lyme disease. Disease Surveillance Report of HPSC, Ireland 17(5). Accessed June 18, 2016
  38. Medlock JM, Hansford KM, Bormane A, Derdakova M, Estrada-Peña A, George J-C, et al. (2013) Driving forces for changes in geographical distribution of Ixodes ricinus ticks in Europe. Parasites and Vectors 6:1–11CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  39. National Biodiversity Data Centre (2017) Biodiversity Maps. Accessed April 10, 2017
  40. Ostfeld RS, Canham CD, Oggenfuss K, Winchcombe RJ, Keesing F (2006) Climate, deer, rodents, and acorns as determinants of variation in Lyme-disease risk. PLoS Biology 4(6):1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pichon B, Rogers M, Egan D, Gray J (2005) Blood-meal analysis for the identification of reservoir hosts of tick-borne pathogens in Ireland. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Disease 40(5):172–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pietzsch ME, Medlock JM, Jones L, Avenell D, Abbott J, Harding P, et al. (2005) Distribution of Ixodes ricinus in the British Isles: investigation of historical records. Medical and Veterinary Entomology 19:306–314CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Randolph SE, Storey K (1999) Impact of microclimate on immature tick-rodent host interactions (Acari: Ixodidae): implications for parasite transmission. Journal of Medical Entomology 36:741–748CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Randolph SE (2001) The shifting landscape of tick-borne zoonoses: tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme borreliosis in Europe. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 356:1045–1056CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  45. Randolph SE (2009) Tick-borne disease systems emerge from the shadows: the beauty lies in molecular detail, the message in epidemiology. Parasitology 136:1403–1413CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Randolph SE, Dobson ADM (2012) Pangloss revisited: a critique of the dilution effect and the biodiversity-buffers-disease paradigm. Parasitology 139:847–863CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Richter D, Matuschka F-R (2011) Differential risk for lyme disease, Germany. Emerging Infectious Diseases 17(9):1–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ruiz-Fons F, Gilbert L (2010) The role of deer as vehicles to move ticks, Ixodes ricinus, between contrasting habitats. International Journal for Parasitology 40:1013–1020CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Ruiz-Fons F, Fernández-de-Mera IG, Acevedo P, Gortázar C, de la Fuente J (2012) Factors driving the abundance of Ixodes ricinus ticks and the prevalence of zoonotic I. ricinus-borne pathogens in natural foci. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 78:2669–2676CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  50. Sarkar S, Strutz SE, Frank DM, Rivaldi C-L, Sissel B, Sánchez-Cordero V (2010) Chagas disease risk in Texas. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 4(10):1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Scharlemann JPW, Johnson PJ, Smith AA, Macdonald DW, Randolph SE (2008) Trends in ixodid tick abundance and distribution in Great Britain. Medical and Veterinary Entomology 22:238–247Google Scholar
  52. Smith J, Smith P (2007) Environmental Modelling: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  53. Stevens KB, Gilbert M, Pfeiffer DU (2013) Modeling habitat suitability for occurrence of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 in domestic poultry in Asia: a spatial multicriteria decision analysis approach. Spatial and Spatio-temporal Epidemiology 4:1–14CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Swart A, IbaÃnez-Justicia A, Buijs J, van Wieren SE, Hofmeester TR, Sprong H, Takumi K (2014) Predicting tick presence by environmental risk mapping. Frontiers in Public Health 2(238):64–71Google Scholar
  55. Tack W, Madder M, Baeten L, Vanhellemont M, Gruwez R, Verheyen K (2012) Local habitat and landscape affect Ixodes ricinus tick abundances in forests on poor, sandy soils. Forest Ecology and Management 265:30–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vanwambeke SO, Sumilo D, Bormane A, Lambin EF, Randolph SE (2010) Landscape predictors of tick-borne encephalitis in Latvia. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 10(5):497–506CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Zintl A, McGrath G, O’Grady L, Fanning J, Downing K, Roche D, et al. (2014) Changing incidence of bovine babesiosis in Ireland. Irish Veterinary Journal 67:1–7.
  58. Zintl A, Moutailler S, Stuart P, Paredis L, Dutraive J, Gonzalez E, Connor JO, Devillers E, Good B, Omuireagain C, De Waal T, Morris F, Gray J (2017) Ticks and tick-borne diseases in Ireland. Irish Veterinary Journal 70(4):1–10Google Scholar

Copyright information

© EcoHealth Alliance 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raphaël Rousseau
    • 1
    Email author
  • Guy McGrath
    • 2
  • Barry J. McMahon
    • 3
  • Sophie O. Vanwambeke
    • 1
  1. 1.Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research, Earth and Life InstituteUniversité catholique de Louvain (UCL)Louvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  2. 2.UCD Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk AnalysisUniversity College DublinBelfield, DublinIreland
  3. 3.UCD School of Agriculture and Food ScienceUniversity College DublinBelfield, DublinIreland

Personalised recommendations