Allergy-Causing Ragweed Set to Thrive in Warmer Climate

9/25/2013 11:08:02 AM

Plants like carbon dioxide. It's their food. But ragweed, the bane of many fall allergy sufferers, really likes it.

Exposed to elevated levels of CO2, ragweed grows faster than most other plants in the eastern United States, said Manuel Lerdau, a University of Virginia biologist.

Ragweed pollen is one of the most serious causes of seasonal allergies. The peak ragweed season is late summer and early fall.

Lerdau said there is strong evidence that ragweed already is responding to rising CO2 levels. In addition, nitrogen pollution that spews from cars' tailpipes and other sources falls to the ground as a sort of fertilizer that ragweed loves.

Common ragweed. Photo by: Flickr user gmayfield10

"People are doing everything they can do to help ragweed," Lerdau said.

Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have risen more than 40 percent from the early stages of the industrial era in the mid-1800s.

Heather Throop, a New Mexico State University biologist, said, "For people with serious allergies or asthma, [ragweed pollen] is quite a serious threat and a major annoyance to a lot of people."

As our climate warms, Throop said, "you potentially could have a much longer allergy season" (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sept. 23)

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500.

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