, Volume 19, Issue 3-4, pp 227-234

Trends in airborne pollen: An overview of 21 years of data in Neuchâtel (Switzerland)

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Abstract

Airborne pollen analysis has been carried outin Neuchâtel (Switzerland) since 1979. Inthe context of increasing prevalence of pollenallergies and global climate warming, thisstudy attempts to confirm whether airbornepollen may be responsible for the former orindicative of the latter, and presents somegeneral features of pollen flight in westernSwitzerland.

The most common pollen types are Taxus/Cupressaceae, Quercus, Poaceae, Pinus,Betula, Urticaceae and Fraxinus. Duringthe 21 years studied, there was no major changein the abundance of pollen. Among thetwenty-five taxa studied only five presented asignificant trend: an increase of pollenquantities was observed for Alnus,Ambrosia, Artemisia and Taxus/Cupressaceae and a decrease for Ulmus. The plant species flowering in winterand in spring were influenced by the mildwinters of the 1990s: 71% of the dates of theonset or the end of the pollen seasons nowadaysoccur significantly earlier in the year. Theobserved advance reaches 0.84 days/year. Treesappear to react stronger to the climate changethan grass and weeds. No pollen type present aprolonged season, so the trend appears to betowards a shift in the timing of pollenpresence in the air.

These observations show that the main cause ofthe spectacular increase of pollinosisprevalence in industrialised countries isprobably not to be found in the weak tendencytowards a rise of pollen abundance, except forsome particular pollen types which can broadenthe spectra and/or intensify the abundance ofmajor allergens present in an area. However,airborne pollen is confirmed to be a sensitiveindicator of climate change. The observedshifts in the pollen seasons make necessary theadequate information for people concerned withpollen allergies, in particular for preventionand therapy purposes.