Ornamental plants as climatic indicators of arthropod vectors

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Abstract

The importance and risk of vector-borne diseases (e.g., leishmaniasis, West Nile Virus, Lyme borreliosis) is going to increase in the European temperate areas due to climate change. Our previous studies have shown that the potential distribution of Leishmania infantum and some Phlebotomus (sand fly) species - a parasite of leishmaniasis, and its vectors - may be expanded even to the southern coastline of the Baltic Sea by the end of the 21st century. The lowland areas of the Carpathian Basin and the main part of Hungary are projected to be suitable for the studied sand fly vectors in the near future. It is important to find some indicator plants to examine whether the sand flies are able to live in a certain climate at a certain time. We studied several Mediterranean and Sub-Mediterranean plant species, and we found that the aggregated distribution of three ligneous species (Juniperus oxycedrus L., Quercus ilex L. and Pinus brutia Ten.) shows high correlation with the union distribution of five sand flies (Phlebotomus ariasi Tonn., Ph. neglectus Tonn., Ph. perfiliewi Parrot, Ph. perniciosus Newst. and Ph. tobbi Adler, Theodor et Lourie). Since these Mediterranean species are highly tolerant of the edaphic characteristics of the planting site, they may prove to be good indicators. The present and upcoming climate of Hungary is seen to be suitable for the selected indicator plant species, and it draws attention to and verifies the potential of the expansion of sand flies, which has been proved by some recent observations of the vectors in Southern Hungary.

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