What's in the air? Exploring the different types of pollen

allergies in may

The peak of pollen concentrations in the atmosphere occurs during the spring season, specifically in the month of May. This has detrimental effects on the well-being of people who suffer from allergies. Various weather conditions play an important role in the proliferation of pollen in the air.

Therefore, in this article we are going to explore the different types of pollen and how a pollen count is performed.

What's in the air?

bee pollinating

As nature transitions from dormant winter to the vibrant season of spring, it experiences a remarkable resurgence, particularly evident in the flowering and pollination of plants. The abundance of pollen in the atmosphere normally reaches its zenith during the latter part of spring, normally covering the months of May and early June. However, it is important to note that these dates are not always exact, as they are heavily influenced by ever-changing weather patterns that vary from year to year.

High concentrations of pollens and fungal spores in the atmosphere have a direct impact on 10% of the world's population, causing allergies in people sensitive to these tiny biological components transported through the air. If we consider all people who experience some type of allergy, including the effects of elevated levels of gases and pollutants found in densely populated urban areas, this percentage increases to 20-25%. This increasing percentage of the population is affected by these environmental factors.

Factors in the type of pollen

pollen in the air

The release of pollen into the air, a crucial element of the pollination process, is influenced by several meteorological factors. It is important to note that no factor can be attributed solely to changes in pollen concentrations. Rather, A combination of temperature, humidity, sunlight, precipitation, wind, and other variables collectively contribute to pollen's conquest of the atmospheric environment as spring progresses. Among these factors, temperature plays an important role, as it serves as the main catalyst for the widespread dispersion of pollen particles.

During the winter season, when temperatures are lower due to reduced sunlight, woody plants enter a state of minimal vegetative activity. However, as February approaches and temperatures gradually rise, these plants emerge from their dormant state, accumulating the heat necessary to begin the flowering process. In the field of agronomy, The amount of heat needed is measured in degree days, with specific thresholds for each plant species. Once these thresholds are reached, flowers begin to bloom, marking the beginning of the pollination process. As we mentioned above, this process reaches its peak in May.

In addition to temperature changes, various meteorological elements also intervene in the dispersion of different types of pollen. These factors can increase or decrease pollen concentrations in the air, providing relief or exacerbating allergies. Atmospheric conditions dictate these fluctuations. When it comes to fungal spores, air humidity has contrasting effects. High humidity prevents pollen from being released into the air, while improving the efficiency of fungal sporulation.

When spring rain arrives, it brings with it a decrease in the amount of pollen in the air. Not only does humidity increase, but pollen is also carried away and deposited on the ground by becoming part of the raindrops. On the other hand, when the rain stops and a sunny period with rising temperatures follows, the release of pollen is stimulated.

Importance of wind

pollen

When it comes to wind, it plays a crucial role in dispersing spores and pollen through the air, allowing these little airborne travelers to travel far from their native fungi and plants. To ensure proper pollen dispersion, Experts estimate that the daily wind path should exceed 200 kilometers. Additionally, it should be noted that higher wind speeds improve pollination efficiency. It is logical that the wind is a valuable companion of pollen in its conquest of the atmosphere.

How is pollen count measured?

There are three main methods used to measure pollen count.

  • Pollen traps: To effectively capture airborne pollen, strategically placed pollen traps are used. These traps are equipped with a rotating shaft fitted with adhesive paper. As the shaft slowly rotates, it sucks in air and traps particles in the paper, allowing for later analysis. The collected pollen is then meticulously examined under a microscope and quantified in quantity per cubic meter of air. These measurements are simplified for public use and provide forecasts ranging from low to high pollen levels.
  • Microscopic analysis: The microscopic analysis process involves the examination and enumeration of pollen grains obtained from the samples. Trained professionals employ microscopy methods to differentiate various types of pollen, making it easier to accurately quantify pollen particles originating from specific plants known to cause allergies.
  • Pollen counting networks: In different regions and countries, networks of monitoring stations diligently collect data on pollen levels. Using various techniques, including pollen traps, these stations collect samples for analysis. The resulting information is then collected and evaluated, providing accurate information on pollen concentration at various locations.

Factors affecting pollen count

Factors that affect pollen levels include:

  • Season: Pollen counts vary depending on the time of year. In temperate climates, tree pollen prevails in spring, grass pollen prevails in summer, and weed pollen prevails in late summer and fall.
  • Climate: Various climatic factors, such as temperature, humidity, wind speed and precipitation, can significantly affect pollen counts. Hot, dry and windy conditions help pollen disperse, increasing pollen counts, while rain or high humidity can temporarily reduce pollen levels.
  • Geography: Different areas exhibit different vegetation patterns, resulting in different types and amounts of pollen. Generally speaking, urban areas tend to have lower pollen counts due to fewer flowering plants compared to rural or forested areas.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about the types of pollen and their characteristics.


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