University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Summer pollen flora in rural and urban central England dominated by nettle, ryegrass and other pollen missed by the national aerobiological network

Hanson, Mary, Petch, Geoffrey, Ottosen, Thor‑Bjørn and Skjøth, Carsten ORCID: (2022) Summer pollen flora in rural and urban central England dominated by nettle, ryegrass and other pollen missed by the national aerobiological network. Aerobiologia. ISSN Electronic: 1573-3025 Print: 0393-5965

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Abundance and diversity of airborne pollen are important to human health and biodiversity. The UK operational network collects airborne pollen from 8 flowering trees, grasses and three weeds using Hirst traps and microscopic identification from urban areas. Knowledge of total pollen diversity and differences between rural and urban zones is limited. We collect environmental DNA (eDNA) from air during summer and autumn over 3 years with mini cyclones from one urban and one rural site. Data are analysed using next generation sequencing and metabarcoding. We find the most common genus, Urtica (57%), is also identified by the national network. The grasses Lolium (10%), Agrostis (2%) and Holcus (1%) are in the national network grouped at family level, while Brassica (2%), Chenopodium (1%), Impatiens (2%), Plantago (4%) and Tilia (7%) are not part of the UK operational network. DNA from 138 genera was identified, where 2% of the sample could not be associated with specific genera. 40% of the sample was classified better using eDNA methods at the genus level, than by optical methods. We calculate Bray–Curtis dissimilarity for the rural and urban zones and find a systematic difference in biodiversity. Overall, this shows airborne DNA reveals more information than methods based on morphological differences. The results also suggest data from sites located in large urban areas will be less representative for less populated rural areas. This presents a dilemma in balancing a network and the associated costs delivering health relevant information to the most populated areas vs. a nation-wide approach.

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Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: eDNA, Cyclones, Air, Microbiology, Biostatistics
Divisions: College of Health, Life and Environmental Sciences > School of Science and the Environment
Copyright Info: © The Author(s) 2022
Depositing User: Mary Hanson
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2022 15:06
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2022 15:08

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