Nav: Home

Japanese trees synchronize allergic pollen release over immense distances

August 26, 2019

Tokyo, Japan - Complaints of allergic rhinitis (hayfever) are common worldwide, affecting around 17% of the Japanese population in spring and summer (around 20 million people). In Japan, the main tree species causing hayfever are Japanese cedar and Japanese cypress, with a combined land area of over 7 million hectares. Their pollen is dispersed between February and May and causes a range of symptoms from itchy eyes and runny noses through to severe respiratory disorders.

Management of these symptoms is dependent on timely and accurate pollen forecasting. It is known that the pollen from these trees has alternate annual cycles of ON (abundant pollen) and OFF (lower amounts) but it is not yet known how the dispersal of pollen synchronizes across Japan as studies to date have been based on only time-limited and local data.

In a study published on August 7th in Scientific Reports, researchers from Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) made use of publicly available data from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment's "Hanako-san" pollen observation system to investigate annual fluctuations in pollen distribution at 120 locations for 14 years and to clarify the spatial synchronization across the Japanese islands.

This research is the first of its kind to study this synchronicity at the national scale and operates across a wide range of academic fields such as nonlinear physics, ecology, and environmental science. "We used a new 'in-phase and out-of-phase' approach as an update to the previous correlation-based methods," says co-author of the study Kenshi Sakai. "We found that the phase synchronizations within and between regions were strong in eastern regions of Japan, such as Hokkaido and Kanto, but the synchronization in western regions was much weaker."

Remarkably, all 120 sites in Japan behaved perfectly in-phase in 2009-2010, even over distances of over 1600 km. In a dramatic contrast, almost perfect desynchronization occurred in 2015-2016. "We still don't know what causes these regional differences in the pollen dispersal behavior," says lead author Akira Ishibashi, "It could be related to correlations in environmental variabilities at the locations of the different tree populations, known as the Moran effect."

Further research will be needed to pinpoint the specific mechanisms behind the observed synchronicity, but the findings will be useful for application in numerical forecasting of pollen abundance, which is crucial to clinicians and individuals suffering with hayfever.

"These findings and our proposed technique with an in-phase matrix have other applications outside of improving the prediction accuracy of allergenic pollen," says Sakai. "The new technique could also be used to quantitatively explain other environmental changes throughout Japan."
-end-
Original publication

Scientific Reports, volume 9, Article number: 11479 (2019)

Dispersal of allergenic pollen from Cryptomeria japonica and Chamaecyparis obtuse: characteristic annual fluctuation patterns caused by intermittent phase synchronisations

Akira Ishibashi, Kenshi Sakai

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-47870-6

About Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT)

TUAT is a distinguished university in Japan dedicated to science and technology. TUAT focuses on agriculture and engineering that form the foundation of industry, and promotes education and research fields that incorporate them. Boasting a history of over 140 years since our founding in 1874, TUAT continues to boldly take on new challenges and steadily promote fields. With high ethics, TUAT fulfills social responsibility in the capacity of transmitting science and technology information towards the construction of a sustainable society where both human beings and nature can thrive in a symbiotic relationship. For more information, please visit http://www.tuat.ac.jp/en/.

Contact:

Kenshi Sakai, Ph. D
Professor
Department of Environment Conservation, Graduate School of Agriculture, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Japan
e-mail: ken@cc.tuat.ac.jp

Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.