Bramble crop concerns scientists




Known by some as the bramble and to others as the blackberry, the small dark fruit found in hedgerows is becoming an essential tool in the recording of changes in our climate.

Brambles or blackberries - Scientists want you to spot them and record them

Brambles or blackberries - Scientists want you to spot them and record them

The Woodland Trust has predicted that, although blackberries could ripen early due to the unseasonably warm weather, the crop could suffer this year due to the driest spring across many counties in England and Wales since 1910.

Blackberry data collected by the charity over the past 10 years shows the average date for ripening has been the first week of August. But with bramble already well into flowering in many areas, ripe fruit will not be long behind, so this year’s crop could be much earlier. However, yield and quality of the fruit is likely to be significantly reduced due to receiving only 45% of the long term average rainfall for March, April and May.

“The weather has remained warm and sunny all through spring, so the blackberry harvest will be early but, unless we get a significant amount of rainfall, the crop may not be as plentiful and plump as we’d hope,” said Professor Tim Sparks, nature advisor to VisitWoods.org.uk.

Unless we get a significant amount of rainfall, the crop may not be as plentiful and plump as we’d hope
Professor Tim Sparks

Blackberries are a vital food supply for a wide range of mammals such as badgers, dormice, hedgehogs and foxes; birds like blackbirds, bullfinches, chaffinches, magpies and song thrushes; and insects including butterflies, wasps and moths.

Visitwoods project needs your help

The VisitWoods project – a partnership project led by the Woodland Trust in collaboration with the National Trust, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and the Forestry Commission – is appealing to the public to get out into the woods and hedgerows and see for themselves what effect the dry weather is having on blackberries, then record their first sightings of ripe blackberries and the yield of the crop on the Nature’s Calendar website.

Professor Sparks said: “Without this citizen science, we could not possibly gather information on the scale that we need to help professional scientists assess the effect the changing climate is having on our plants and wildlife so accurately.”

The key to all of this data is members of the public recording – the more recordings, the more accurate the findings, and it really does make a difference.

To get started, find your nearest wood at www.visitwoods.org.uk, then follow the links to add your sightings.

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