A Scoping Review of Species Distribution Modeling Methods for Tick Vectors

Heather L. Kopsco, Rebecca L. Smith, Samniqueka J. Halsey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Globally, tick-borne disease is a pervasive and worsening problem that impacts human and domestic animal health, livelihoods, and numerous economies. Species distribution models are useful tools to help address these issues, but many different modeling approaches and environmental data sources exist. Objective: We conducted a scoping review that examined all available research employing species distribution models to predict occurrence and map tick species to understand the diversity of model strategies, environmental predictors, tick data sources, frequency of climate projects of tick ranges, and types of model validation methods. Design: Following the PRISMA-ScR checklist, we searched scientific databases for eligible articles, their references, and explored related publications through a graphical tool (www.connectedpapers.com). Two independent reviewers performed article selection and characterization using a priori criteria. Results: We describe data collected from 107 peer-reviewed articles that met our inclusion criteria. The literature reflects that tick species distributions have been modeled predominantly in North America and Europe and have mostly modeled the habitat suitability for Ixodes ricinus (n = 23; 21.5%). A wide range of bioclimatic databases and other environmental correlates were utilized among models, but the WorldClim database and its bioclimatic variables 1–19 appeared in 60 (56%) papers. The most frequently chosen modeling approach was MaxEnt, which also appeared in 60 (56%) of papers. Despite the importance of ensemble modeling to reduce bias, only 23 papers (21.5%) employed more than one algorithm, and just six (5.6%) used an ensemble approach that incorporated at least five different modeling methods for comparison. Area under the curve/receiver operating characteristic was the most frequently reported model validation method, utilized in nearly all (98.9%) included studies. Only 21% of papers used future climate scenarios to predict tick range expansion or contraction. Regardless of the representative concentration pathway, six of seven genera were expected to both expand and retract depending on location, while Ornithodoros was predicted to only expand beyond its current range. Conclusion: Species distribution modeling techniques are useful and widely employed tools for predicting tick habitat suitability and range movement. However, the vast array of methods, data sources, and validation strategies within the SDM literature support the need for standardized protocols for species distribution and ecological niche modeling for tick vectors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number893016
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
StatePublished - Jun 15 2022


  • climate change
  • ecological niche models
  • habitat suitability models
  • species distribution models
  • ticks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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