QLE.20.023 – Ticks and the City: The biodiversity benefits and health risks of urban greening

Route: Quality of the living environment

Cluster question: 078 How does the built environment affect health and wellbeing?

Urban greening is an increasingly popular strategy to improve the quality of life in cities. Green spaces are widely acknowledged to positively affect human well-being, drainage and climate control in cities, as well as to support biodiversity. However, wildlife – especially birds and mammals – also hosts parasites such as ticks, which in turn vector pathogens that may cause infectious diseases in humans. While urban greening is widely promoted, these effects remain poorly understood. Theory says that urbanization might facilitate certain parasites and pathogens by disproportionally promoting the abundance and mobility of key host species, but this idea remains untested. Meanwhile, zoonotic infections are increasingly common among people in cities in Northwestern Europe via pathways yet unknown. In this project, scientists from a broad range of disciplines, including ecologists and epidemiologists, collaborate with citizens and societal partners to understand how urban greening affects the occurrence and ecology of wildlife, disease vectors and pathogens in urban environments. Our approach is to study interactions between greenspaces, wildlife, parasites, zoonotic pathogens and ultimately people along rural-to-urban gradients. We seek to understand which mechanisms underly infections in urban environments, and how these mechanisms are affected by greenspace planning and management. The information acquired will then be integrated and used to compare urban-planning and greenspace-management scenarios. The anticipated practical outcome are strategies for urban greening that work for wildlife while minimizing possible health risks. We will do this in close collaboration with a wide range of societal partners, ranging from authorities to business and citizen organizations.


birds, citizen science, mammals, urban ecology, urban planning, zoonoses

Other organisations

HAS, NIOO-KNAW, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (RU), Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM), Utrecht University (UU)


Organisation Wageningen University (WUR)
Name Dr. P. (Patrick) Jansen
E-mail patrick.jansen@wur.nl
Website https://www.wur.nl/nl/Personen/Patrick-dr.ir.-PA-Patrick-Jansen.htm