Ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) are the most common vectors of infectious animal diseases and pose a serious threat to humans, pets, wild animals and livestock worldwide. Ticks are involved in the transmission of several tick borne pathogens (TBPs), some of them can be also agents of zoonosis (de la Fuente et al., 2008). Their questing activity, reproduction and survival depend on several factors, including vegetation coverage, host availability, moisture and temperature (Estrada-Peña et al.
, 2012; Torina et al., 2008).Effective vaccines are not yet available for the majority of tick borne pathogens (de La Fuente et al., 2016; Torina et al., 2014; de la Fuente, 2012). Prevention methods against vectors are therefore to date the most effective tools against tick borne pathogens. Monitoring of tick distribution and identification of greatest risk environments is one of the most useful strategy to prevent the risk of tick-borne disease.
Town parks and suburban green zones, in particular, constituting areas of urban recreational activity for families, athletes and pets, represent suitable environments for contact with bloodsucking arthropods, as for example ticks. Nevertheless, few studies have been conducted in Italy to investigate tick abundance and seasonal dynamic in urban and periurban parks used for recreational activities (Di Luca et al., 2013; Aureli et al.
, 2015).In the last years, the study of infectious and parasitic diseases with strong environmental determinants, such as those transmitted by vectors, took advantage of the use Geographic Information System (GIS) as analysis tool (Estrada-Peña et al., 2007).The application of this tool has increased from very specific areas to ever more broad fields, including human and veterinary medicine, epidemiology and entomology. GIS application in the health field is taking on an increasingly important role as a support instrument for disease mapping, ecological analysis and risk assessment. The GIS allows managing, analysing and correlating the health and/or entomological data with environmental data, such as vegetation, altitude and land cover.
This approach, called ecological analysis, it is a great support in the identification of environmental risk factors (risk assessment) and has been applied to the study of several bacterial, viral and parasitic diseases (Cringoli et al., 2005; Rinaldi et al., 2006). This study was aimed to the analysis, through GIS application, of a spatial and temporal distribution of free-living ticks in the Natural Reserve of Monte Pellegrino, in Palermo (Italy), a peri-urban area of the city attended by families, walkers, pets for recreational and sportive activities.