, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 181-191
Date: 06 Oct 2006

Changes in the pollen seasons of the early flowering trees Alnus spp. and Corylus spp. in Worcester, United Kingdom, 1996–2005

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Abstract

Previous work on Betula spp. (birch) in the UK and at five sites in Europe has shown that pollen seasons for this taxon have tended to become earlier by about 5–10 days per decade in most regions investigated over the last 30 years. This pattern has been linked to the trend to warmer winters and springs in recent years. However, little work has been done to investigate the changes in the pollen seasons for the early flowering trees. Several of these, such as Alnus spp. and Corylus spp., have allergens, which cross-react with those of Betula spp., and so have a priming effect on allergic people. This paper investigates pollen seasons for Alnus spp. and Corylus spp. for the years 1996–2005 at Worcester, in the West Midlands, United Kingdom. Pollen data for daily average counts were collected using a Burkard volumetric trap sited on the exposed roof of a three-storey building. The climate is western maritime. Meteorological data for daily temperatures (maximum and minimum) and rainfall were obtained from the local monitoring sites. The local area up to approximately 10 km surrounding the site is mostly level terrain with some undulating hills and valleys. The local vegetation is mixed farmland and deciduous woodland. The pollen seasons for the two taxa investigated are typically late December or early January to late March. Various ways of defining the start and end of the pollen seasons were considered for these taxa, but the most useful was the 1% method whereby the season is deemed to have started when 1% of the total catch is achieved and to have ended when 99% is reached. The cumulative catches (in grains/m3) for Alnus spp. varied from 698 (2001) to 3,467 (2004). For Corylus spp., they varied from 65 (2001) to 4,933 (2004). The start dates for Alnus spp. showed 39 days difference in the 10 years (earliest 2000 day 21, latest 1996 day 60). The end dates differed by 26 days and the length of season differed by 15 days. The last 4 years in the set had notably higher cumulative counts than the first 2, but there was no trend towards earlier starts. For Corylus spp. start days also differed by 39 days (earliest 1999 day 5, latest 1996 day 44). The end date differed by 35 days and length of season by 26 days. Cumulative counts and lengths of season showed a distinct pattern of alternative high (long) and low (short) years. There is some evidence of a synchronous pattern for Alnus spp.. These patterns show some significant correlations with temperature and rainfall through the autumn, winter and early spring, and some relationships with growth degree 4s and chill units, but the series is too short to discern trends. The analysis has provided insight to the variation in the seasons for these early flowering trees and will form a basis for future work on building predictive models for these taxa.