Prescribed fire could reduce tick populations and pathogen transmission

by Chuck Gill, Penn State
October 21, 2022

Prescribed fire — a tool increasingly used by forest managers and landowners to combat invasive species, improve wildlife habitat and restore ecosystem health — also could play a role in reducing the abundance of ticks and the transmission of disease pathogens they carry, according to a team of scientists.

For a recently published paper, the researchers reviewed the scientific literature on the effects of fire on forest composition and structure and its influence on ticks and their wildlife hosts. They concluded that prescribed burning can help restore forest habitats to a state less favorable to several species of disease-carrying ticks and could be an effective management tactic for reducing their populations.

The era of fire suppression, which began roughly in the early 1900s and has continued for more than a century, changed the species composition of Eastern forests, creating habitats and microclimates that favored the survival and spread of ticks, noted lead author Michael Gallagher, research ecologist at the Silas Little Experimental Forest, Northern Research Station, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, New Lisbon, New Jersey.

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