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Environmental Economics (EEC) : project R-9088

Title : The effect of proximity to nature, biodiversity and climate change on the spread of tick-borne diseases and associated health costs. (R-9088)
Abstract: Tick populations and tick-borne infections, including Lyme borreliosis, have significantly increased in several European countries since the mid-1990s, leading to an increase in associated health costs. Whereas the effect of increased proximity of green areas in urban environments could potentially result in increased tick infection risk (an ecosystem "disservice"), the impact of biologically more diverse areas (habitat quality) could result in increased biological disease control (an ecosystem "service"). Within this wider framework of ecosystem services, we aim to quantify the effect of proximity to natural areas, of habitat quality, in terms of its biological diversity, and of climate change on the spread of tick-borne diseases and the associated health costs. Therefore, more specifically, the goals of the proposed research are i) to quantify the relationship between the proximity of green areas and tick infection rates (WP1), ii) to identify the main variables responsible for sustaining high tick densities in different ecosystems, including the impact of habitat quality (biological diversity) on tick density and tick exposure risk (WP2), iii) to quantify the effect of different climate change scenarios on tick behaviour and infection potential in different ecosystems (WP3), and iv) to monetize the effects of changes in proximity to nature, habitat quality and climate change on associated health costs for Lyme borreliosis (WP4). As such, the proposed research links the relative importance of Lyme borreliosis in Belgium to its societal costs on the one hand, and will help formulate cost-effective nature-based solutions measures for a pressing and growing health issue within the context of proximity to nature, habitat quality and climate change on the other hand.
Period of project : 1/10/2018to31/03/2020

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