Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 185, Issue 1, pp 877-890

First online:

Climate change impact on the olive pollen season in Mediterranean areas of Italy: air quality in late spring from an allergenic point of view

  • Tommaso BonofiglioAffiliated withDepartment of Applied Biology, University of Perugia
  • , Fabio OrlandiAffiliated withDepartment of Applied Biology, University of Perugia Email author 
  • , Luigia RugaAffiliated withDepartment of Applied Biology, University of Perugia
  • , Bruno RomanoAffiliated withDepartment of Applied Biology, University of Perugia
  • , Marco FornaciariAffiliated withDepartment of Applied Biology, University of Perugia

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Recent studies have shown that there are many effects of climate change on aeroallergens, and thus on allergic diseases in humans. In the Mediterranean region, despite the importance of the olive tree for production, there is high allergenicity of olive pollen and related risks to human health. Aerobiological sampling techniques can be used to analyse the pollinosis phenomenon through determination of mean daily pollen concentrations per cubic metre of air. The present study was carried out from 1999 to 2008 in 16 olive-growing areas in Italy, to update the information on the pollinosis characteristics of Olea europaea in the study areas. The analysis of the average flowering season over the study period highlights a temporal scaling of pollen in the atmosphere that depends on the different climatic characteristics. This is mainly dependent on temperature, and in part, determined by latitude. Generally, the levels of O. europaea pollen in the atmosphere are higher from mid-April to the end of June, with the period of greatest risk to human health due to this olive pollen in this area currently limited primarily to the last 10 days of May. However, the pollen season can move, depending on the climate scenario considered, and data here can be used to determine potential time shifts in pollinosis that might cause more precocious asthma and allergy problems. The allergy season for this type of pollen might be significantly precocious in future decades (20–30 days earlier in the year), which will impact on the severity and duration of allergies attributable to olive tree pollen.


Global warming Human health Allergic illnesses Pollen grains Italy