Author Archives: Matt Smith

Pollen-monitoring: between analyst proficiency testing

Citation: Sikoparija, B., Galán, C., Smith, M. and EAS_QC_Working_Group (2016). Pollen-monitoring: between analyst proficiency testing. doi:10.1007/s10453-016-9461-3.

Springer Nature Sharing

Abstract: This study presents the results of a Europe-wide training and Quality Control (QC) exercise carried out within the framework of the European Aerobiology Society’s QC Working Group and European COST Action FA1203 entitled “sustainable management of Ambrosia artemisiifolia in Europe (SMARTER)” with the aim of ensuring that pollen counters in Europe are confident in the identification of Ambrosia pollen grains. A total of 69 analysts from 20 countries examined a test slide by light microscopy, which contained Ambrosia pollen and pollen from other Asteraceae that could be recorded in the atmosphere at the same time of year (i.e. Artemisia, Iva, and Xanthium). Daily average pollen concentrations produced by individual participants were compared with the assigned value and the bias was measured by z-score. Both the assigned value and standard deviation for proficiency testing were calculated following the consensus value principle (ISO13528:2005) from the results reported by all the participants in the test. It took a total of 531 days from when the exercise commenced until all 69 analysts reported their results. The most outliers were reported for Artemisia pollen concentrations followed by Xanthium and Iva. The poor results for Artemisia and Xanthium were probably caused by low concentrations on the test slide leading to larger bias due to the unequal distribution of pollen over the microscope slide. Participants performed the best in identifying and quantifying Ambrosia pollen. Performing inter-laboratory ring tests with the same sample is very time consuming and might not be appropriate for large-scale proficiency testing in aerobiology. Pollen with similar morphology should be included in the education process of aerobiologists.

Defoliation of common ragweed by Ophraella communa beetle does not affect pollen allergenicity in controlled conditions

Citation: Lommen, S. T. E., Ciappetta, S., Ghiani, A., Asero, R., Gentili, R., Müller-Schärer, H. and Citterio, S. (2016). Defoliation of common ragweed by Ophraella communa beetle does not affect pollen allergenicity in controlled conditions. Plant Biosystems

Taylor & Francis Online

Abstract: Ragweed allergy is one of the primary causes of seasonal allergies in Europe and its prevalence is expected to rise. The leaf beetle Ophraella communa, recently and accidentally established in N-Italy and S-Switzerland, represents a promising approach to control ragweed, but negative side effects should be excluded before its use. Since biotic and abiotic stresses are known to influence the allergenicity of pollen, we set out to assess the effect of sub-lethal defoliation by O. communa on the quantity and quality of ragweed pollen. Seventeen sister pairs (including six clones) of ragweed plants were grown in controlled conditions. One of each pair was exposed to O. communa as soon as the plant started to produce reproductive structures. After 10 weeks of exposure, plant traits were measured as a proxy for pollen quantity. Pollen quality was assessed by measuring its viability and allergenicity. Generally, plants produced very few male flowers and little amount of pollen. Damage by the beetle was severe with most of the leaf tissue removed, but no treatment effect was found on any of the quantitative and qualitative traits assessed. In conclusion, O. communa did not increase the amount or allergenicity of ragweed pollen grains in our experimental conditions.

Joint meeting of the taxonomy group and TF genetics of SMARTER

Specialists in Ambrosia taxonomy and genetics met at Cagliari, Sardinia (3-4.10.2016), to discuss closure for ongoing collaborative projects and to plan future collaborations.

On the first day the group tried to verify Sardinian populations of Ambrosia and found to their surprise the last 2 individuals of Ambrosia maritima, a taxon that is said to be the only native taxon of the genus in the Old World.

Searching for ragweed amongst the dunes

Searching for ragweed amongst the dunes

During the workshop on the second day, the  specialists provided mostly new (and unpublished) information on the state of the art in their respective fields. Improved identification tools were brought to an almost finished state, and future collaborations beyong the SMARTER Action were arranged.

Meeting participants

Meeting participants

SMARTER Final synthesis meeting

A final synthesis meeting for COST SMARTER will be held at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) 31 October – 2 November 2016.

The meeting aims to bring together key players (leaders of the various WGs and TFs) of COST SMARTER to further advance our achievements by discussing synthesis publications on the topics listed below:

(i) linking aerobiology to ecology to monitor ragweed (all species) abundances and distribution throughout Europe

(ii) impact of management (cutting, competitive vegetation, biocontrol) on ragweed performance, population dynamics and spread, and on aerial pollen

(iii) linking the biology of Ophraella to the impact on plant performance, population dynamics, pollen release, aerial pollen concentration and public health economics

(iv) evaluation of management success (continue discussion of Lyon and Vianden)

(v) guidelines on best practices (habitat- and region specific)

(vi) relationships between pollen in the air and public health

(vii) final agreements on the website

Final SMARTER conference and meetings

Members of European COST Action for the sustainable management of Ambrosia artemisiifolia in Europe “SMARTER” met in the historic and picturesque town of Vianden in north-eastern Luxembourg.

The programme included meetings for Working Group 2 (11 Sept) as well as the Core Group, Managament Committee, and TF Population Dynamics (12 Sept). These were followed by the Final SMARTER Conference that preceded the 9th International Conference on Biological Invasions “Interactions with Environmental Change” (NEOBIOTA 2016) .

An important aim of the WG2 Vegetation Management meeting was to finish the manual of the standardised protocol for testing the soil seed bank of Ambrosia artemisiifolia, which is simple and straightforward enough for practitioners to use but based on biological knowledge. Rea Hall reported on the TTC tests and Rodolfo Gentili on the competitive seed mixtures, and a paper on these topics was discussed. Gerhard Karrer reported on the taxonomy group activities, e.g. on Ambrosia maritima, which is on base of these investigations recently to be considered nearly extinct in the Mediterranean.

The Core Group and Management Committee meetings mainly focused on discussing the successes and failures of the COST Action, and how the work being carried out by the various Working Groups and Task Forces can be brought together as lack of synthesis was identified as a major failing of SMARTER so far.


Prof. Heinz Müller-Schärer, the Chair of the Action, leading the discussions during the MC meeting in Vianden

Success stories of the Action include the work carried out in estimating the risk of non-target effects of Ophraella commune following its accidental introduction into Northern Italy and the number of publications being prepared by the Action, many of which were presented during the Final Conference and the abstracts can be viewed here Abstracts-smarter-vianden2016.

Brochure with the final achievements: depl_smarter-20164

Michel Thibaudon (RNSA France) presenting "The French evolution of exposition and health impact since 10 years" at the SMARTER Final Conference.

Michel Thibaudon (RNSA France) presenting “The French evolution of exposition and health impact since 10 years” at the SMARTER Final Conference.

The Vianden meeting was successfully organised by Christian Ries, who also led the social programme (on the piano)

The Vianden meeting was successfully organised by Christian Ries, who also led the social programme (on the piano)