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Ecology - Immunology

Changes to Airborne Pollen Counts across Europe
Published: Friday, April 13, 2012
Author: Chiara Ziello et al.

by Chiara Ziello, Tim H. Sparks, Nicole Estrella, Jordina Belmonte, Karl C. Bergmann, Edith Bucher, Maria Antonia Brighetti, Athanasios Damialis, Monique Detandt, Carmen Galán, Regula Gehrig, Lukasz Grewling, Adela M. Gutiérrez Bustillo, Margrét Hallsdóttir, Marie-Claire Kockhans-Bieda, Concepción De Linares, Dorota Myszkowska, Anna Pàldy, Adriana Sánchez, Matthew Smith, Michel Thibaudon, Alessandro Travaglini, Agnieszka Uruska, Rosa M. Valencia-Barrera, Despoina Vokou, Reinhard Wachter, Letty A. de Weger, Annette Menzel

A progressive global increase in the burden of allergic diseases has affected the industrialized world over the last half century and has been reported in the literature. The clinical evidence reveals a general increase in both incidence and prevalence of respiratory diseases, such as allergic rhinitis (common hay fever) and asthma. Such phenomena may be related not only to air pollution and changes in lifestyle, but also to an actual increase in airborne quantities of allergenic pollen. Experimental enhancements of carbon dioxide (CO) have demonstrated changes in pollen amount and allergenicity, but this has rarely been shown in the wider environment. The present analysis of a continental-scale pollen data set reveals an increasing trend in the yearly amount of airborne pollen for many taxa in Europe, which is more pronounced in urban than semi-rural/rural areas. Climate change may contribute to these changes, however increased temperatures do not appear to be a major influencing factor. Instead, we suggest the anthropogenic rise of atmospheric CO levels may be influential.