The Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) will begin coordinating an EU project, named SYLVA, which is intended to develop cutting-edge biological aerosol monitoring technologies and infrastructure.
The project started in 2023 and the first results addressing these challenges are expected in the spring of 2024. The SYLVA project will be funded under the Horizon Europe program, with support from the Swiss SERI governmental agency. Additionally, the Academy of Finland research project SPORELIFE (consortium of FMI, SYKE and University of Turku) and Academy Fellow project ClimRust focus on the challenges posed by fungal spores.
More than 80 million Europeans are allergic to pollen and fungal spores, and associated health costs are estimated to range between €50bn-150bn (US$52bn-158bn) per year. Likewise, billions of euros are lost because of crop destruction and tree diebacks, not to mention the environmental costs associated with fungicide use. To facilitate mitigation and adaptation actions, there is a critical need to monitor these particles and generate freely available and timely information to end-users across a range of key sectors. The Finnish research project aims to revolutionize bioaerosol observations, advance forecasting tools and provide game-changing information to society across Europe and at the global scale.
Mikhail Sofiev, a research professor at the FMI, noted, “These projects will deliver new, tailored information to end-users, enhancing our understanding of environmental and climate-related changes in biological aerosols.”
According to FMI, the technology used to monitor pollen dates to the 1950s, but the instrument developed 70 years ago does not satisfy modern requirements. It has an overall uncertainty of over 30%, poor collection stability, and the lengthy manual microscopic analysis of samples delays the data by three to nine days.
SYLVA aims to achieve a radical improvement, by filling gaps in temporal resolution, timeliness, coverage and availability of information about bioaerosols. The project will develop open-source monitoring technologies and integrate them with existing European observing systems.
SPORELIFE and ClimRust will tackle the most challenging aspects of monitoring and modeling of fungal spores, their distribution in the environment, biodiversity, and ongoing and forthcoming changes.
The project is also intended to look into the way in which bioaerosols are affected by and affect climate change, through their role in cloud microphysics. Bioaerosols could also provide critical insights into agriculture and forestry, aiding in predicting fruit production and reducing soil pollution by fungicides via more precise applications. Accurate pollen monitoring can also track climate-induced habitat shifts and the invasion of new species.
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