SP9: Spatio-temporal Patterns of Pollen and Fungal Spores and its Impact on Health and Disease (Augsburg University)
Head: Prof. Dr. Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann
Execution: Carolin Trost
Allergies are the most common chronic disease in Germany and Europe. Particularly in the younger population, allergies are widespread at more than 30% and lead to significant losses in the quality of life of those affected and their families. Socio-economic damage through a reduced performance at school, college, and work is the result. The significant increase in atopic diseases over the past five decades is most likely a by-product of our modern lifestyle, which is characterized by increasing urbanization and changing dietary habits. However, as numerous results from our research group suggest, the allergenicity of plant pollen could also be influenced by climate change factors, in particular drought stress and increased atmospheric CO2 concentration.
These connections justify the need for a special level of transdisciplinary research, which will be possible within the framework of this graduate school.
This subproject aims to:
- (O1) Determine the effects of climate change and urbanization on allergy-relevant ecosystems, urban living conditions, and finally on health and diseases;
- (O2) Investigate the impact of climate change on shifts in the reproductive seasons and habitats of allergenic plants. We will check whether an increase of vegetation cover in urban areas has disadvantages in terms of pollen and spore load, and thus on health and disease.
The overarching hypotheses of this project are that:
- (H1) There is high variety of spatiotemporal patterns within cities;
- (H2) Many other meteorological factors impact of spatiotemporal patterns of pollen and fungal spores in cities;
- (H3) Development and application of digital twin technology within a Panel study investigating pollen exposure and Reactome will unravel personal symptom thresholds;
- (H4) Correlations between microscale urban climate effects and pollen and fungal spore loads can be used as decision-making aids in urban planning.
To measure pollen and fungal spores in cities we will refine a sensor for bioaerosols to lay the foundation for the development of a digital twin technology. Besides, the bioaerosols will be combined with other environmental, supplemented, and jointly integrated into digital products for early warning systems. Mobile pollen traps (measuring pollen and spores) will be located in different in- and outdoor locations. To investigate pollen and spore occurrence in different heights in differing urban areas unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) will be used. The focus is on the sources, transport pathways, and sinks, which are highly relevant for health care and urban planning. Based on this, health and allergy-relevant or health-endangering weather conditions are identified and meteorologically characterized. Spatially differentiated patterns of climatic parameters and thermal of climatic parameters, thermal and aeroallergenic exposure in urban areas will be determined. In the next step, pollen and fungal spore exposure will be correlated to patients’ symptom data.
This data will be available within a panel-study of 50 allergics that are filling in daily symptoms paralleled by regular lab visits. This panel-study is constantly running in Augsburg since 2016. Thus, we will investigate how the thermal climate of UGI influences air quality. The benefit is, on the one hand, that established correlations between micro-scale urban climate effects and pollen and fungal spore loads can be used as decision-making aids in urban planning. On the other hand, projections of future climate change scenarios can be used to assess the climate change scenarios provide an assessment of long-term planning relevance. This project will significantly add to a benefit of people at risk of allergies: a short-term reaction planning of stays in risk zones as well as in an improved assessment of the allergy risk by treating physicians. Pollen is also known to adsorb and accumulate pollutants from stormwater run-off like heavy metals and organic substances and can significantly influence the behavior of Sustainable drainage systems (SUDS).