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Quantifying the relationship between airborne pollen and vegetation in the urban environment

Charalampopoulos, Athanasios, Lazarina, Maria, Tsiripidis, Ioannis, Vokou, Despoina
Aerobiologia 2018 v.34 no.3 pp. 285-300
Cupressaceae, Olea, Pinaceae, Platanus, Ulmus, air, botanical composition, environmental factors, linear models, pollen, urban areas, vegetation, woody plants, Greece
The goal of this study was to quantitatively assess the relationship linking vegetation and airborne pollen. For this, we established six sampling stations in the city of Thessaloniki, Greece. Once every week for 2 years, we recorded airborne pollen in them, at breast height, by use of a portable volumetric sampler. We also made a detailed analysis of the vegetation in each station by counting all existing individuals of the woody species contributing pollen to the air, in five zones of increasing size, from 4 to 40 ha. We found the local vegetation to be the driver of the spatial variation of pollen in the air of the city. Even at very neighbouring stations, only 500 m apart, considerable differences in vegetation composition were expressed in the pollen spectrum. We modelled the pollen concentration of each pollen taxon as a function of the abundance of the woody species corresponding to that taxon by use of a Generalized Linear Model. The relationship was significant for the five most abundantly represented taxa in the pollen spectrum of the city. It is estimated that every additional individual of Cupressaceae, Pinaceae, Platanus, Ulmus and Olea increases pollen in the air by approximately 0.7, 0.2, 2, 6 and 5%, respectively. Whether the relationships detected for the above pollen taxa hold outside the domain for which we have data, as well as under different environmental conditions and/or with different assemblages of species representing them are issues to be explored in the future.