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Climate Change and Hayfever Research Underway

September 1, 2010
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A group with Burkhard traps

As part of an ongoing study investigating climate change effects on human health, a team led by David Foster and Kristina Stinson (Harvard Forest) and Christine Rogers (University of MA School of Public Health & Health Sciences) recently deployed a series of pollen capturing instruments, known as Burkard traps, to monitor ragweed pollen across Massachusetts. The ragweed pollen season, which typically runs from August 1-October 31, is one of the worst for those who suffer from hay fever. Warming climate, higher atmospheric CO2 levels and conversion of forest lands to more open disturbed sites, are all predicted to exacerbate hay fever symptoms by increasing overall abundance of this species, as well as its pollen output. Five pollen traps in total will monitor local pollen counts from Boston to the Berkshires, generating data similar to those used for online allergy forecasting but at a much higher spatial resolution. Stinson and colleagues will link pollen trap data to local and regional ecological data on the abundance, flowering time, and potency of pollen in order to model and map present and future ragweed allergy "hotspots" in a number of different climate and land use scenarios. This research is funded by EPA-STAR grant # SU834359010 and creates a new research platform on human response to climate change that links to ongoing long term ecological studies such as the Harvard Forest LTER and ULTRA-X Boston programs. 

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