Climate warming and the decline of Taxus airborne pollen in urban pollen rain (Emilia Romagna, northern Italy)


  • Editor
    M. Günthardt-Goerg

A. M. Mercuri, Laboratorio di Palinologia e Paleobotanica, Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia, viale Caduti in Guerra 127, 41121 Modena, Italy.


Woody plant performance in a changing global environment has always been at the centre of palaeoenvironmental and long-term climate reconstructions carried out by means of pollen analysis. In Mediterranean regions, Taxus constitutes the highest percentage in past pollen diagrams from cold or cool periods, and therefore it is generally considered a good index to infer climate features from past records. However, a comparison of these inferences with the true current trends in pollen production has not been attemped until now. This study reports the decline of airborne pollen of Taxus observed in Emilia Romagna, a region of northern Italy, during the period 1990–2007. Phenological observations on four male specimens and microscopic examination of fresh pollen were made in order to check Taxus flowering time and pollen morphology. Airborne pollen was monitored through continuous sampling with a Hirst volumetric sampler. In the 18-year long period of investigation, Taxus pollen production has decreased, while total woody pollen abundance in air has increased. The trend of the Taxus pollen season shows a delay at the beginning, a shortening of the pollen period, and an advance of the end of the pollen season. This was interpreted as a response to climate warming. In particular, Taxus follows the behaviour of winter-flowering plants, and therefore earlier pollination is favoured at low autumn temperatures, while late pollination occurs more often, most likely after warm autumn temperatures.