The Influence of Individual-Specific Plant Parameters and Species Composition on the Allergenic Potential of Urban Green Spaces
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Urban parksLandscape planningAllergenic potentialEcosystem disservices
Jochner-Oette, S. [et al.]. The Influence of Individual-Specific Plant Parameters and Species Composition on the Allergenic Potential of Urban Green Spaces. Forests 2018, 9, 284; doi:10.3390/f9060284.
SponsorshipWe gratefully acknowledge the support of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (FENOMED CGL2014-54731-R).
Green planning focusses on specific site requirements such as temperature tolerance or aesthetics as crucial criteria in the choice of plants. The allergenicity of plants, however, is often neglected. Cariñanos et al. (2014; Landscape and Urban Planning, 123: 134–144) developed the Urban Green Zone Allergenicity Index (IUGZA) that considers a variety of plant characteristics to calculate the allergenic potential of urban green spaces. Based on this index, we calculated an index for the individual-specific allergenic potential (IISA) that accounts for a varying foliage volume by accurate measurements of crown heights and surface areas occupied by each tree and only included mature individuals. The studied park, located in Eichstätt, Germany, has an area of 2.2 ha and consists of 231 trees. We investigated the influence of species composition using six planting scenarios and analysed the relationship between allergenic potential and species diversity using Shannon index. Only a small number of trees was female and therefore characterised as non-allergenic, 9% of the trees were classified as sources of main local allergens. The allergenic potential of the park based on literature values for crown height and surface was IUGZA = 0.173. Applying our own measurements resulted in IISA = 0.018. The scenarios indicated that replacing trees considered as sources of main local allergens has the strongest impact on the park’s allergenic potential. The IUGZA offers an easy way to assess the allergenic potential of a park by the use of a few calculations. The IISA reduces the high influence of the foliage volume but there are constraints in practicability and in speed of the analysis. Although our study revealed that a greater biodiversity was not necessarily linked to lower index values, urban green planning should focus on biodiversity for ameliorating the allergenic potential of parks.