As a professional ecologist, I’ve been aware of Lyme borreliosis since graduating from university in the mid-1990’s. At that time, the disease was largely restricted to England, with the highest concentration of reported instances located to the south of an imaginary line drawn between the Severn Estuary in the west and the Wash in the east. However, in the last 20 years the disease has spread throughout the UK.
Lyme disease is an infectious disorder caused by bacteria of the genus Borrelia. The disease is spread by ticks, which are common throughout the UK. Early symptoms of the disease typically include flue like symptoms, most noticeably, fever, headache and fatigue. However, if left untreated in the long-term, the disease can lead to fatigue, joint or muscle aches and cognitive dysfunction.
Research led by the University of Glasgow, which was recently published in the journal ‘Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B’, examined how conservation management activities in the UK have the capacity to spread Lyme disease. Specifically, the research found that woodland regeneration and urban greening, in addition to biodiversity policy, have the capacity to result in an increased risk of Lyme disease. However, coupled with the control of deer populations, for example, through culling or through the use of deer exclusion fencing, the risk of Lyme disease was reduced. As a result of the study, researchers have recommended that conservation measures should also include a provision for the monitoring of ticks and pathogens, thereby allowing appropriate strategies, guidelines and government policy to be developed, with the aim of enhancing wildlife whilst minimising the risk to human health.
Having read the research paper, I’m left wondering if environmental planning should now take into account the spread of Lyme disease? Clearly any assessment work, undertaken as part of the consenting process, would need to be undertaken by a competent health scientist or other professional. However, as an EIA practitioner, even I can appreciate there will be a cross-over with the ecological community, especially when it comes to assessing the risk of spreading the disease, as a result of implementing ecological mitigation in support of development.
This blog was informed by research undertaken by the University of Glasgow, which was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
Image Credit: Lyme Disease UK