Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Rising CO2 and pollen production of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.), a known allergy-inducing species: implications for public health.

Lewis H. Ziska and Frances A. Caulfield

Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 27(10) 893 - 898
Published: 2000


Although environmental factors such as precipitation and temperature are recognized as influencing pollen production, the impact of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) on the potential growth and pollen production of hay-fever-inducing plants is unknown. Here we present measurements of growth and pollen production of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) from pre-industrial [CO2] (280 mol mol–1) to current concentrations (370 mol mol–1) to a projected 21st century concentration (600 mol mol–1). We found that exposure to current and elevated [CO2] increased ragweed pollen production by 131 and 320%, respectively, compared to plants grown at pre-industrial [CO2]. The observed stimulations of pollen production from the pre-industrial [CO2] were due to an increase in the number (at 370 mol mol–1) and number and size (at 600 mol mol–1) of floral spikes. Overall, floral weight as a percentage of total plant weight decreased (from 21% to 13%), while investment in pollen increased (from 3.6 to 6%) between 280 and 600 mol mol–1 CO2. Our results suggest that the continuing increase in atmospheric [CO2] could directly influence public health by stimulating the growth and pollen production of allergy-inducing species such as ragweed.

Keywords: allergens, elevated carbon dioxide, photosynthesis, pollen, relative growth rate.

© CSIRO 2000

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