Science of the Total Environment
School of Science
European Commission / Marie Curie Career Integration Grant / University of Worcester / Stanard Grants
Characterizing pollen release and dispersion processes is fundamental for knowledge advancement in ecological, agricultural and public health disciplines. Understanding pollen dispersion from grass communities is especially relevant due to their high species-specific allergenicity and heterogeneously distributed source areas. Here, we aimed to address questions concerning fine level heterogeneity in grass pollen release and dispersion processes, with a focus on characterizing the taxonomic composition of airborne grass pollen over the grass flowering season using eDNA and molecular ecology methods. High resolution grass pollen concentrations were compared between three microscale sites ( < 300 m apart) in a rural area in Worcestershire, UK. The grass pollen was modelled with local meteorology in a MANOVA (Multivariate ANOVA) approach to investigate factors relevant to pollen release and dispersion. Simultaneously, airborne pollen was sequenced using Illumina MySeq for metabarcoding, analysed against a reference database with all UK grasses using the R packages DADA2 and phyloseq to calculate Shannon's Diversity Index ( -diversity). The flowering phenology of a local Festuca rubra population was observed. We found that grass pollen concentrations varied on a microscale level, likely attributed to local topography and the dispersion distance of pollen from flowering grasses in local source areas. Six genera (Agrostis, Alopecurus, Arrhenatherum, Holcus, Lolium and Poa) dominated the pollen season, comprising on average 77 % of the relative abundance of grass species reads. Temperature, solar radiation, relative humidity, turbulence and wind speeds were found to be relevant for grass pollen release and dispersion processes. An isolated flowering Festuca rubra population contributed almost 40 % of the relative pollen abundance adjacent to the nearby sampler, but only contributed 1 % to samplers situated 300 m away. This suggests that most emitted grass pollen has limited dispersion distance and our results show substantial variation in airborne grass species composition over short geographical scales.
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