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Consequences of climate change on airborne pollen in Bavaria, Central Europe

Climate change affects the reproductive life cycles of plants, including pollen production, which has consequences for allergic respiratory diseases. We examined climatic trends at eight locations in Bavaria, Southern Germany, with pollen time series of at least 10 years (up to 30 years in Munich). Climate change in Bavaria was characterized by a rise in temperature, but not during the winter. There is also a trend towards a more continental climate in Bavaria, which is significant in the Alps in the south of the territory. The influence of climate change depended on pollen type. Wind-pollinated arboreal species (e.g. AlnusBetula and Cupressaceae/Taxaceae) showed advances in the start and end dates of pollen seasons and an increase in pollen load. These changes correlated negatively with late-winter (February) and spring temperatures (April). For herbaceous species, like Poaceae and Urticaceae, an earlier season was observed. Although precipitation is not a limiting factor in Southern Germany, water availability in the spring did influence the magnitude of grass pollen seasons. The effect of climatic change on the characteristics of pollen seasons was also more pronounced at higher altitudes, significant at > 800 m above sea level. Our results show that trends for start, end dates and intensity were similar at all locations, but only statistically significant at some. If we assume that earlier and more intense pollen seasons result in increases in prevalence and severity of allergic diseases, then the effect of climate change on public health in Bavaria may be significant.

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