The future of ragweed: making more Europeans sneeze

A study of three ragweed species shows areas affected by high risk of allergies doubling by 2100.

Data resources used via GBIF : 10,539 species occurrences
Ambrosia trifida
Giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) by juliabohemian via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Ragweed (Ambrosia sp.) is considered to be among the most potent aeroallegens and the major cause of late summer hay fever. Medical costs exceed $18 billion per year in the US, an in Hungary, one in four people are allergic to ragweed, making this member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) a major public health concern.

In the present study, researchers from Denmark used GBIF-mediated occurrences of three Ambrosia species (A. artemisiifolia, A. psilostachya and A. trifida) to create species distribution models for quantifying the allergy risk in Europe under future climates. Their results showed that areas of high risk is likely to double by the year 2100, leading to novel risk areas in Denmark, France, Germany, Russia and the Baltics.

Understanding the future distributions of such allergenic plants is crucial to predicting the consequences for human health. The authors of this study concludes that unless strict management strategies are enforced, restricting dispersal and establishment of new colonies, Europe will face a substantial increase in areas affected by severe ragweed associated allergy problems.

Rasmussen K, Thyrring J, Muscarella R and Borchsenius F (2017) Climate-change-induced range shifts of three allergenic ragweeds (Ambrosia L.) in Europe and their potential impact on human health. PeerJ. PeerJ 5: e3104. Available at: