In this study, we used ecological niche factor analysis (ENFA) and principal components analysis (PCA) of climate variables to define the climate niches and areas of potential colonization of six species of ticks in the Mediterranean region: Dermacentor marginatus Sulzer, Rhipicephalus bursa Canestrini & Fanzago, Rhipicephalus turanicus Pomerantsev, Matikashvili & Lototsky, Hyalomma marginatum Koch, Hyalomma excavatum Koch, and Boophilus annulatus (Say). ENFA generated distribution models that varied in accuracy from high to very high (area under the curve [AUC] = 0.87–0.97), with the lowest AUC obtained for B. annulatus. PCA provided an adequate separation of the climate niches of different species in the reduced space of the variables. Climate scenarios and factorial consensus analysis were used to evaluate the geographic impact of climate change (as turnover in habitat suitability) on the niches of the ticks and net variations in habitat availability. The scenario that was most compatible with estimates of future climate in the Mediterranean region (increase in temperature and decrease in rainfall) was predicted to produce a sharp increase in the extent of suitable habitat for R. bursa, R. turanicus, and H. marginatum. This scenario would result in a northward expansion of suitable habitat areas for these three species. The highest impact (highest species turnover) would be recorded at the margin of the current distribution range of the three species. A sensitivity analysis of the ecological response of the ticks to the climate change scenarios showed that the response is statistically different in different regions of the PCA-derived niche. These results outline the need to further investigate the potential of bioclimate models to obtain accurate estimations of tick species turnover under conditions of climate change over wide areas.
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Vol. 44 • No. 6