Climate change impact on the olive pollen season in Mediterranean areas of Italy: air quality in late spring from an allergenic point of view
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.
KeywordsGlobal warming Human health Allergic illnesses Pollen grains Italy
Average daily pollen concentration
Average annual pollen counts
Percentage of days with a concentration of grains per cubic metre air >400
End of flowering
Full flowering date
Total pollen index
Maximum pollen counts (grains/days)
Main pollination period
Number of days with a concentration >400 grains/m3 air
Start of flowering
Average temperature during the 3 months, March–April–May
Critical threshold of pollen concentration (>400 grains/m3 air)
- Barber, D., Moreno, C., Ledesma, A., Serrano, P., Galan, A., Villalba, M., et al. (2007). Degree of olive pollen exposure and sensitization patterns: Clinical implications. Journal Investigation Allergological Clinical immunology, 17(1), 63–68.Google Scholar
- Bousquet, J., Cour, P., Guerin, B., & Michel, F. B. (1985). Allergy in the Mediterranean area: Pollen counts and pollinosis of Montpellier. Clinical Allergy, 14, 249–258.Google Scholar
- Brown, J. L., Li, S. H., & Bhagabati, N. (1999). Long-term trend toward earlier breeding in an American bird: A response to global warming? Ecology, 96, 5565–5569.Google Scholar
- Caiaffa, M. F., Macchia, L., & Tursi, A. (1991). Il polline di Olea europaea e la sua importanza in allergologia. Giornale Italiano Allergologia e Immunologia Clinica, 1, 471–474.Google Scholar
- Canu, A., Pellizzaro, G., Cesaraccio, C., Sirca, C., & Vargiu, A. (2006). Flowering phenology of olive trees (Olea europea L.) in North Sardinia (Italy) and its relationships with airborne pollen pattern. Proceedings of the 17th Conference on Biometeorology and Aerobiology, 22–26 May 2006, San Diego.Google Scholar
- Cecchi, L., D'Amato, G., Ayres, J. G., Galan, C., et al. (2010). Projections of the effects of climate change on allergic asthma: The contribution of aerobiology. Allergy. doi:10.1111/j.1398-9995.2010.02423.x.
- D'Amato, G., Liccardi, G., & Russo, M. (1994). Oleaceae pollinosis: Aerobiological and clinical aspects. Revista Española de Alergología e Inmunología Clínica, 9(2), 50–54.Google Scholar
- Domínguez Vilches, E., Infante García-Pantaleón, F., Galán Soldevilla, C., Guerra Pasadas, F., & Villamandos de la Torre, F. (1993). Variations in the concentrations of airborne Olea pollen and associated pollinosis in Córdoba (Spain): A study of the 10-year period 1982–1991. Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology, 3(3), 121–129.Google Scholar
- Fornaciari, M., Pieroni, L., Ciuchi, P., & Romano, B. (1997). A statistical model for correlatine airborne pollen grains (Olea europaea L.) and some meteorological parameters. Agricoltura Mediterranea, 127, 134.Google Scholar
- Fornaciari, M., Bonofiglio, T., Orlandi, F., Sgromo, C., Scazziota, B., & Romano, B. (2007). Possibile “traslazione” dell’area di coltivazione dell’olivo a seguito del cambiamento climatico. Italian Journal of Agrometeorology, 1, 22–23.Google Scholar
- Galán, C., García-Mozo, H., Vázquez, L., Ruis, L., De la Guardia, C. D., & Trigo, M. M. (2005). Heat requirement for the onset of the Olea europea L. pollen season in several sites in Andalusia and the effect of the expected future climate change. International Journal of Biometeorology, 49, 184–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- IPCC. (2007). Summary for policymakers. In: S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K. B. Averyt, M. Tignor, & H. L. Miller (eds.), Climate change 2007: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- ISTAT. (2002). 5°Censimento dell'Agricoltura. http://censagr.istat.it/. Accessed 20 April 2010.
- Osborne, C. P., Chuine, I., Viner, D., & Woodward, F. I. (2000). Olive phenology as a sensitive indicator of future climate warming in the Mediterranean. Plant, Cell and Environment, 23, 701–710.Google Scholar
- Quiralte, J., Palacios, L., Rodrìguez, R., Càrdaba, B., Arias de Saavedra, J. M., Villalba, M., et al. (2007). Modelling diseases: The allergens of Olea europaea pollen. Journal Investigation Allergological Clinical Immunological, 17(1), 76–82.Google Scholar
- Reid, E. C., & Gamble, J. L. (2009). Aeroallergens, allergic disease, and climate change: Impacts and adaptation. EcoHealt. doi:10.1007/s10393-009-0261-x.
- Stach, A., Garcıa-Mozo, H., Prieto-Baena, J. C., Czarnecka-Operacz, M., Jenerowicz, D., Sihy, W., et al. (2007). Prevalence of Artemisia species pollinosis in western Poland: Impact of climate change on aerobiological trends, 1995–2004. Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology, 17, 39–47.Google Scholar