Regional and seasonal variation in airborne grass pollen levels between cities of Australia and New Zealand
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Although grass pollen is widely regarded as the major outdoor aeroallergen source in Australia and New Zealand (NZ), no assemblage of airborne pollen data for the region has been previously compiled. Grass pollen count data collected at 14 urban sites in Australia and NZ over periods ranging from 1 to 17 years were acquired, assembled and compared, revealing considerable spatiotemporal variability. Although direct comparison between these data is problematic due to methodological differences between monitoring sites, the following patterns are apparent. Grass pollen seasons tended to have more than one peak from tropics to latitudes of 37°S and single peaks at sites south of this latitude. A longer grass pollen season was therefore found at sites below 37°S, driven by later seasonal end dates for grass growth and flowering. Daily pollen counts increased with latitude; subtropical regions had seasons of both high intensity and long duration. At higher latitude sites, the single springtime grass pollen peak is potentially due to a cooler growing season and a predominance of pollen from C3 grasses. The multiple peaks at lower latitude sites may be due to a warmer season and the predominance of pollen from C4 grasses. Prevalence and duration of seasonal allergies may reflect the differing pollen seasons across Australia and NZ. It must be emphasized that these findings are tentative due to limitations in the available data, reinforcing the need to implement standardized pollen-monitoring methods across Australasia. Furthermore, spatiotemporal differences in grass pollen counts indicate that local, current, standardized pollen monitoring would assist with the management of pollen allergen exposure for patients at risk of allergic rhinitis and asthma.
KeywordsAerobiology Latitude Grass pollen Plant distribution Australia New Zealand
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