, Volume 19, Issue 3–4, pp 227–234 | Cite as

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

  • Bernard Clot


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.

abundance allergy climate change pollen season trends 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Beggs P.J.: 1998, Pollen and pollen antigen as trigger of asthma – what to measure ? Atmospheric Environment 32, 1777–1783.Google Scholar
  2. Clot B.: 2000, 21 Years Airborne Pollen Data in Neuchâtel: An Overview. Abstracts of the Second European Symposium on Aerobiology, Vienna, 55.Google Scholar
  3. Clot B., Gehrig R., Peeters A.G., Schneiter D. Tercier P. and Thibaudon M.: 2002, Pollen d'ambroisie en Suisse: Production locale ou transport? Allergie et Immunologie 34, 126–128.Google Scholar
  4. Comtois P.: 1998, Statistical analysis of aerobiological data. In: P. Mandrioli, P. Comtois and V. Levizzani (eds), Methods in Aerobiology. Pitagora Editrice Bologna, p. 257.Google Scholar
  5. Corden J. and Millington W.: 1999, A study of Quercus pollen in the Derby area, UK. Aerobiologia 15, 29–37.Google Scholar
  6. Corsico R.: 1993, L'asthme allergique en Europe. In: F.T.M. Spieksma, N. Nolard, G. Frenguelli and D. Van Moerbeke (eds), Pollens de l'air en Europe. UCB, Braine-l'Alleud, pp. 19–29.Google Scholar
  7. Defila C.: 1991, Pflanzenphänologie der Schweiz. Dissertation University of Zürich. Veröff. Schweiz. Meteorol. Anst. 50, 1–235.Google Scholar
  8. Defila C. and Clot B.: 2001, Phytophenological trends in Switzerland. Int. J. Biometeorol. 45, 203–207.Google Scholar
  9. Detandt M. and Nolard N.: 2000, The fluctuations of the allergenic pollen content of the air in Brussels (1982 to 1997). Aerobiologia 16, 55–61.Google Scholar
  10. D'Odorico P., Yoo J. and Jäger S.: 2002, Changing seasons: An effect of the North Atlantic Oscillation? Journal of Climate 15, 435–445.Google Scholar
  11. Emberlin J., Jäger S., Dominguez-Vilches E., Galan Soldevilla C., Hodal L., Mandrioli P., Rantio Lehtimäki A., Savage M., Spieksma F.T.M. and Bartlett C.: 2000, Temporal and geographical variations in grass pollen seasons in areas of western Europe: An analysis of season dates at sites of the European pollen information system. Aerobiologia 16, 373–379.Google Scholar
  12. Emberlin J., Mullins J., Corden J., Millington W., Brooke M., Savage M. and Jones S.: 1997, The trend to earlier birch pollen seasons in the UK: A biotic response to changes in weather conditions? Grana 36, 29–33.Google Scholar
  13. Frei T.: 1998, The effects of climate change in Switzeland 1969– 1996 on airborne pollen quantities from hazel, birch and grass. Grana 37, 172–179.Google Scholar
  14. Frei T. and Leuschner R.M.: 2000, A change from grass pollen induced allergy to tree pollen induced allergy: 30 years of pollen observation in Switzerland. Aerobiologia 16, 407–416.Google Scholar
  15. Frenguelli G., Spieksma F.T.M., Brichhi E., Romano B., Mincigrucci G., Nikkels A.H., Dankaart W. and Ferranti F.: 1991, The influence of air temperature on the starting dates of the pollen season of Alnus and Populus. Grana 30, 196–200.Google Scholar
  16. Hirst J.M.: 1952, An automatic volumetric spore trap. Ann. Appl. Biol. 39, 257–265.Google Scholar
  17. IPCC: 2001, Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  18. Jackson M.: 2001, Allergy: The making of a modern plague. Clin. Exp. Allergy 31, 1665–1671.Google Scholar
  19. Jäger L.: 1998, Pollenexposition-Pollensensibilisierung. Allergologie 21, 95–97.Google Scholar
  20. Jäger S.: 1990, Tageszeitliche Verteilung und langjährige Trends bei allergiekompetenten Pollen. Allergologie 5, 159–182.Google Scholar
  21. Jäger S., Nilsson S., Berggren B., Pessi A.-M., Helander M. and Ramfjord H.: 1996, Trends of some airborne tree pollen in the Nordic countries and Austria, 1980–1993. Grana 35, 171–178.Google Scholar
  22. Leuschner R.M., Christen H., Jordan P. and Vonthein R.: 2000, 30 years of studies of grass pollen in Basel (Switzerland). Aerobiologia 16, 381–391.Google Scholar
  23. Mandrioli P., Di Cecco M. and Andina G.: 1998, Ragweed pollen: The aeroallergen is spreading in Italy. Aerobiologia 14, 13–20.Google Scholar
  24. Newnham R.M.: 1999, Monitoring biogeographical response to climate change: The potential role of aeropalynology. Aerobiologia 15, 87–94.Google Scholar
  25. Peeters A.G., Herren T., Udriet M., Hauser M., Hess C., Vuillemin F., Clot B. and Gehrig R.: 2002, Airborne pollen in Switzerland 2001. MeteoSchweiz, Zürich 9, 90.Google Scholar
  26. Rebetez M.: 2000, Changements climatiques en Suisse au 20ème siècle: grandes tendances et extrêmes. In: M. Rebetez and J. Combe (eds), Quelle Sylviculture Pour Les Climats à Venir? Actes de la journée thématique, WSL, Lausanne, 48 pp.Google Scholar
  27. Rybnicek O. and Jäger S.: 2001, Ambrosia (ragweed) in Europe. ACI International 13, 60–66.Google Scholar
  28. Schapowal A.: 1997, Nehmen die allergischen Krankheiten zu? Allergologie 11, 560–564.Google Scholar
  29. Schäppi G., Monn C., Wüthrich B. and Wanner H.-U.: 1996, Analysis of allergens in ambient aerosols: comparison of areas subjected to different levels of air pollution. Aerobiologia 12, 185–190.Google Scholar
  30. Schneiter D., Defila C., Gehrig R. and Clot B.: 2002, Influence du changement climatique sur la phénologie des plantes et la présence de pollens dans l'air en Suisse. Allergie et Immunologie 34, 113–116.Google Scholar
  31. Spieksma F.T.M., Emberlin J., Hjelmroos M., Jäger S. and Leuschner R.: 1995, Atmospheric birch (Betula) pollen in Europe: trends and fluctuations in annual quantities and the starting dates of the seasons. Grana 34, 51–57.Google Scholar
  32. Spieksma F.T.M. and Nikkels A.H.: 1998, Airborne grass pollen in Leiden, The Netherlands: Annual variations and trends in quantities and season starts over 26 years. Aerobiologia 14, 347–358.Google Scholar
  33. Voltolini S., Minale P., Troise C., Bignardi D., Modena P., Arobba D. and Negrini A.C.: 2000, Trend of herbaceous pollen diffusion and allergic sensitisation in Genoa, Italy. Aerobiologia 16, 245–249.Google Scholar
  34. Walther G.-R., Burga C.A. and Edwards P.J. (eds): 2001, “Fingerprints” of Climate Change: Adapted Behaviour and Shifting Species Ranges. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York and London, 330 pp.Google Scholar
  35. Wüthrich B.: 1989, Epidemiology of allergic diseases: Are they really in the increase? Int. Arch. Allergy Appl. Immunol. 90, 3–10.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Clot
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire de botanique évolutive de l'Université de Neuchâtel and MeteoSwissPayerneSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations