Empoderando a las mujeres contra la pobreza energética en el Mediterráneo

Un proyecto internacional liderado por el ICTA-UAB, Enginyeria sense Fronteres Catalunya y el Institut de Recerca en Energia de Catalunya (IREC) contribuye a abordar los problemas de suministro energético en 1.500 hogares del Área Metropolitana de Barcelona.

Global fisheries could alleviate a global food emergency in extreme situations

A new international study argues that, if managed sustainably in advance, global fisheries could alleviate food shortages even after a nuclear war.

Tackling shocking decline in nature needs a ‘safety net’ of multiple and ambitious goals

Researchers from the BC3, ICTA-UAB and the University of La Laguna evaluate the criteria of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Restoring 30% of the World’s Ecosystems in Priority Areas Could Stave Off More than 70% of Projected Extinctions

A new report in Nature involving ICTA-UAB demonstrates that this measure would allow the absorption of nearly half of the carbon built up in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.

Diet of pre-Columbian Societies in the Brazilian Amazon Reconstructed

A new study shows that hunting and agroforestry management, and not fishing, were the foundations of subsistence economy for pre-Columbian societies in the Amazon coast of Brazil.

Wildlife conservation undermines the rights of indigenous people and local communities in India

A new EJAtlas map launched by the ICTA-UAB denounces that the current model puts growth and gains before human lives and the nature it is intended to protect.

Ocean Warming and Acidification Effects on Calcareous Phytoplankton Communities

A new study led by researchers from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) warns that the negative effects of rapid ocean warming on planktonic communities will be exacerbated by ocean acidification.

ICTA-UAB economist Joan Martínez Alier wins the Balzan Prize for Environmental Challenges

Economist Joan Martínez Alier from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology  of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) is one of the winners of the 2020 Balzan Prize in the category of "Environmental Challenges: Responses from the Social Sciences and Humanities".

Indigenous People Essential to Understanding Environmental Change

An international research involving ICTA-UAB scientists shows how local and indigenous knowledge can help manage ecosystems and wildlife.

New publication in the MAGIC project takes a critical look at circular economy

With the world’s attention focussed on COVID-19, issues that were in the forefront of public concern just a few months ago seem to have magically disappeared.

Economic Benefits of Protecting 30% of Planet’s Land and Ocean Outweigh the Costs at Least 5-to-1

First-of-its-kind report involving ICTA-UAB researcher shows the global economy is better off with more nature protected.

ICTA-UAB awarded the "María de Maeztu” Unit of Excellence Award for the second consecutive time

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) has been accredited a Maria de Maeztu Unit of Excellence Award for the second consecutive time by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.

Proyecto experimental de agricultura urbana, local y tradicional en Sabadell

El ICTA-UAB y el Ayuntamiento de Sabadell constituyen la comunidad FoodE, que reúne a todos los actores implicados en el sistema de producción alimentaria de la ciudad y en esta iniciativa.

What do we breathe when in the forest?

For the first time, a study characterizes the forest chemistry of the air under the canopy of a Mediterranean holm oak forest and detects maximum concentrations in July and August.

Catalonia's Scientific Contributions to Fighting Covid-19

Sixty ICREA researchers, including Isabelle Anguelovski of the ICTA-UAB, lead more than a hundred research activities on Covid-19.

Academia in the Time of COVID-19: Towards an Ethics of Care


Computer Platform Gives Visibility to Catalonia's Small Villages

A research team from the UAB, in collaboration with the Association of Microvillages of Catalonia, has created a Geographic Information System (GIS) for Active and Sustainable Hamlets (GISASH), which gathers information on the state of and services offered by the more than 330 municipalities in Catalonia with fewer than 500 inhabitants.

Environmental justice defenders victims of violence and murder

Grassroots movements halt environmental degradation in up to 27% of environmental conflicts worldwide, according to a study by the ICTA-UAB.

Technological changes and new low-carbon lifestyles, key to mitigating climate change impacts

In order to mitigate climate change impacts and achieve a more sustainable society, it is necessary to transform the current energy system based on fossil fuels into a model based on renewable energies.

Exploring climate change impacts through popular proverbs

Members of an irrigation community doing maintenance work in an acequia de careo (irrigation canal built at the top of the mountain) to improve the circulation of water for irrigation and human consumption.

Neolithic vessels reveal dairy consumption in Europe 7,000 years ago

Pottery from the site located in Verson (Francia) analysed during the research (Picture by Annabelle Cocollos, Conseil départemental du Calvados ou CD14 publicada en Germain-Vallée et al.

Economic growth is incompatible with biodiversity conservation

A study involving more than 20 specialists in conservation ecology and ecological economics highlights the contradiction between economic growth and biodiversity conservation.

Power struggles hinder urban adaptation policies to climate change

Transformative actions implemented by cities to address and mitigate the impacts of climate change may be hindered by political struggles for municipal power.

Analysis of tropical fire soot deposited in the ocean will help predict future global climate changes

The ICTA-UAB begins a scientific expedition in the Atlantic Ocean to collect dust and smoke samples from the fires of tropical Africa deposited in marine sediments.

Red coral effectively recovers in Mediterranean protected areas after decades of overexploitation

Protection measures of the Marine Protected Areas have enable red coral colonies (Corallium rubrum) to recover partially in the Mediterranean Sea, reaching health levels similar to those of the 1980s in Catalonia and of the 1960s in the Ligurian Sea (Northwestern Italy).

Sub-national “climate clubs” could offer key to combating climate change

‘Climate clubs’ offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally-harmonised climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Higher and earlier pollen concentrations expected for this spring

Date: 2020-03-18

Spring and summer pollination will begin a few days earlier than usual and in important numbers, reaching higher than average levels (from the 1994-2019 period). Experts explain how to differentiate allergy symptoms from those of the Severe Acute Respiratory Symptoms caused by the coronavirus.

The pollination of this spring and summer will arrive a few days earlier than usual and concentrations will be high, reaching levels above average (from the 1994-2019 period). This is indicated by the forecast of pollen and spore levels in the environment in Catalonia for the following months conducted by researchers from the Aerobiology Information Network of Catalonia (XAC) from the ICTA-UAB and the Department of Animal Biology, Plant Biology and Ecology at the UAB.

The past autumn and winter have been more humid and warmer than usual. The abundance of water underground at the moment in which plants, especially trees, restart their activtity after the cold period, and mild temperatures for this time of year in which pollination begins, has translated into much blooming and pollination during the winter (particularly in cypress, ash, almond and alder trees). In addition, the weather forecast for this spring (which can be consulted at Meteocat) says that it will be slightly warmer than usual, with more amount of rain than usual, as well. 

With this information, the XAC informs that:

  • during 2020, the winter pollinations (cypress, ash, almond and alder) began early and very strongly, surpassing the historic average concentrations registered since 1994, and ended earlier too (therefore, lasting as long as it normally does);
  • in the same manner, spring pollination (plane, pine, parietaria, poplar, willow, maple, mulberry, grass and soon also birch, orache and plantains) follow this tendency of beginning soon and very strongly and could last as long as usual, UNLESS:

    temperatures suddenly rise steeply, which would produce an abrupt end of the plant's flowering period;

    rain during daytime, when flowers are wide open and can release their pollen. The rain would pull the pollen down to the ground. However, even if the rain eliminates pollen from the air, it also provides the water needed by plants getting ready to bloom, and could help increase pollination and prolong the period of time in which plants such as parietaria, grass, orache, plantains, olive trees and artemisias release pollen into the air;

    strong episodes of wind coming from directions with little or no pollen (such as from the sea into land), which could lower the concentrations or modify the composition of the spectrum.

Allergies and Symptoms

Allergies are the immune system's response triggered by a great variety of external substances known as allergens. These allergens can set off reactions if they are breathed in, swallowed, injected into the body or come in contact with the skin. People suffer most commonly from respiratory allegiries, with approximately 25% of the population affected with rhinoconjunctivitis and up to 12% with asthma. In our environment, allergies are mainly produced by dust mites, pollen and fungal spores. Symptoms of respiratory allergies are difficult breathing, coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes and nose, nasal obstruction, mucus, headaches and difficulty sleeping.  

Top Allergy-Producing Pollen

According to data from the SCAIC, allergy patients most often suffer from pollen produced by grasses (51.6%), plane trees (38.7%), olive trees (35.5%), cypresses (22.6%) and oraches (6.5%).

According to the XAC, the most abundant types of allergen pollens in Catalonia are cypresses (20.8%), plane trees (9.7%), the oleaceae –olive tree + ash + privet (8.6%), parietaria (5.3%), grasses (4.3%) and oraches (2.4%), with important variations in the amount depending on the geographical and climatic zones of Catalonia.

The XAChas analysed the tendency in yearly amounts of these pollens for the past 26 years, with the aim of evaluating changes in meteorological patterns (climate change) and how they influence pollination. The results make it clear that, in Catalonia, there has been a significant statistical increase in the yearly amounts of tree pollen (cypress, plane tree and olive tree), while plant pollen have decreased significantly (parietaria and orache) or non-significantly (grasses and artemisia).

Comparrison Between Allergy Symptoms and Those of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Caused by Coronavirus 2

The Catalan Allergy and Clinical Immunology Society (SCAIC) explains how to differentiate allergy symptoms from those caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome caused by the Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19). Some symptoms are similar and could lead to confusion.

Can we find the difference between the two pathologies?

The main symptoms described in COVID-19 are fever (88.7-91.7% of patients), dry cough (67.8-75%), which can cause irritation in the pharynx and lead to pharyngitis, general discomfort (75%) and difficulty breathing, sometimes accompanied by a feeling of chest tightness. Digestive diseases can also appear, although they are not as frequent. When respiratory symptoms appear due to allergies, rarely are they accompanied by fever or digestive discomfort and there is a predominance of nasal congestion and mucus, which is much less frequent in COVID-19. Patients allergic to pollen, especially in the case of parietaria, may feek an itch (not pain) on the palate and/or throat.

If I am allergic, am I at greater risk of suffering from SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19?

The main diseases associated with this infection seem to be high blood pressure (30%), diabetes (12.1%), cardiovascular diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (to a lesser extent, 1.4 %). Therefore, until now it has not been demonstrated that allergies and asthma are risk factors when suffering from SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19.

Are patients with asthmatic allergies in greater risk of suffering pulmonary exacerbation if infected with COVID-19?

During the SARS outbreak in Singapore or Hong Kong no asthma exacerbation was observed. This was due to the changes in lifestyle of those suffering from asthma: the closing of schools, prevention measures, use of masks, etc. However, since respiratory infections, especially viral ones, can bring on asthma crises there is a need to increase prevention measures. It is very important to follow all basic asthma treatments in order to have it under control.

Can the spring put a halt to COVID-19?

Although the majority of viruses, including some types of Coronavirus, are not as active when the temperatures rise, in the case of COVID-19, we currently do not have enough evidence of this possibility given that countries such as Singapore have also had cases although the temperatures and humidity are very high.

Medical Attention Given to Allergy Sufferers in Catalonia

The increase in allergies in the future in Catalonia will greatly be due to the number of multiple sensitivities to different allergens in one same patient. This implies multiple manifestations (asthma, rhinitis, skin rashes, anaphylaxis, and other symptoms), with a spectrum of severity caused by multiple allergens. All of this complicates the diagnosis and treatment, elevates healthcare, social and familial costs and make allergy specialists essential in treating systemic diseases such as allergies. The SCAIC uses the information provided by the Aerobiology Information Network of Catalonia given that it is a very important and necessary tool. In addition, it recommends its patients to remain updated through the XAC application in order to be informed and be able to plan their activities according to how this information evolves.

The Aerobiology Information Network of Catalonia (XAC): measures of pollen and fungal spores in the environment 

Since 1983, the XAC has been studying in Catalonia the diversity and levels of airborne pollen and fungal spore. Monitoring is current done in 9 cities: Barcelona, Bellaterra, Girona, Lleida, Manresa, Planes de Son, Roquetes-Tortosa, Tarragona and Vielha.

The XAC website offers weekly updates on allergy-causing pollen and spore level predictions, as well as graphs showing the pollen and spore dynamics throughout the year and in comparison to previous years, pollen calendars and other information of interest on aerobiology. Users can sign up on the website to receive weekly bulletins. Predictions can also be consulted on Instagram @aerobiologia_de_catalunya and Twitter @aerobiologia and on the apps used to calculate these predictions (El Temps for Android, and PolenCat for Android and IOS), and others such as the website of the Cassà de la Selva City Council and Amazon's Alexia Skills. The XAC is also available for consultations made by professionals and individuals (aerobiologia.pia@uab.cat).

The XAC project was created with the objective of being a service for the country and its citizens, and was first presented as research included in the PhD thesis of its current coordinator Jordina Belmonte. The XAC exists thanks to the financial support of administrations and companies which we hereby wish to mention and thank once again: Laboratorios LETI, Tarragona Provincial Council, Meteorological Service of Catalonia, Lleida Provincial Council, Sociedad Española de Alergología e Inmunología Clínica (SEAIC), Societat Catalana d'Al·lèrgia i Immunologia Clínica (SCAIC), J Uriach y Compañia, S.A., Master's Degree in Neuromarketing, UAB and the UAB. Also thanks to the project TECBIOMET (CTM2017-89565-C2-1-P).


ICTA's Activities