Is the recent decrease in airborne Ambrosia pollen in the Milan area due to the accidental introduction of the ragweed leaf beetle Ophraella communa?
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This study aims to determine whether a significant decrease in airborne concentrations of Ambrosia pollen witnessed in the north-west of the Province of Milan in Northern Italy could be explained by environmental factors such as meteorology, or whether there is evidence to support the hypothesis that the decrease was related to the presence of large numbers of the oligophagous Ophraella communa leaf beetles that are used as a biological control agent against Ambrosia in other parts of the world. Airborne concentrations of Ambrosia, Cannabaceae and Urticaceae pollen data (2000–2013) were examined for trends over time and correlated with meteorological data. The amount of Ambrosia pollen recorded annually during the main flowering period of Ambrosia (August–September) was entered into linear regression models with meteorological data in order to determine whether the amount of airborne Ambrosia pollen recorded in 2013 was lower than would normally be expected based on the prevailing weather conditions. There were a number of significant correlations between concentrations of airborne Ambrosia, Cannabaceae and Urticaceae pollen, as well as between airborne pollen concentrations and daily and monthly meteorological data. The linear regression models greatly overestimated the amount of airborne Ambrosia pollen in 2013. The results of the regression analysis support the hypothesis that the observed decrease in airborne Ambrosia pollen may indeed be related to the presence of large numbers of O. communa in the Milan area, as the drastic decrease in airborne Ambrosia pollen in 2013 cannot be explained by meteorology alone.
KeywordsAerobiology Ragweed Ophraella communa Biocontrol agent
We acknowledge support from EU COST Action FA1203 “Sustainable management of Ambrosia artemisiifolia in Europe (SMARTER)” (http://ragweed.eu). This work was partly financed by the Ministry of Science, Republic of Serbia (project numbers OI173002 and III43002) and the COST-STSM-FA1203-16674 to BS. The authors are grateful to Dott. Marina della Foglia, responsible of the UOC SPreSAL of the Local Health Authority Milan 1 and to Mrs. Marilena Pisoni for providing information about construction sites in the study area.
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