Woodland Trust predicts 2013 will be a bumper year for fruiting autumn berries and reveals that last year’s crop was the worst in over a decade, according to scientific records.

Early indications from data collected by the public for the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project suggest that autumn will be late this year, but that the glorious weather in early summer will mean autumn wild fruit crops will flourish, having a positive impact on the UK’s native plant and wildlife species.

2012’s extremely wet conditions during the summer resulted in late leaf tints, late fruiting and exceptionally poor crops of wild fruit. In fact, last year’s Nature’s Calendar records displayed the lowest fruiting scores since the Trust started collecting records 12 years ago, for 14 of the 16 tree and shrubs species recorded by the project’s volunteers1. The Trust is urging the public to record their sightings of this year’s early autumn sightings on its Nature’s Calendar website.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite, Nature’s Calendar Project Manager, said: “Although our records suggest that autumn fruiting will be late this year due to the delayed onset of spring flowering , if the warm weather interspersed with occasional wet spells continues, this should mean the fruiting of shrubs like bramble, rowan and blackthorn, is abundant.

“Wildlife species will no doubt benefit from a bumper crop, and finally fruit-eating birds and mammals will be able to enjoy an autumn feast. Last year, birds and mammals suffered some of the poorest fruiting crop in years and this, coupled with the prolonged cold snap in spring, meant that many species had to endure a long period without a decent food supply.

She continued: “In order to better understand the impacts of long-term changing climate on some of the UK’s most-loved native species, we need the public to record their autumn sightings on our Nature’s Calendar website.”

The charity’s Nature’s Calendar project, which has phenology records dating back to the 17th century, allows people to record signs of spring as well as autumn by noting sightings such as fruit ripening, ivy flowering and leaf colouring. The records compiled by the public are used by government and scientists to aid the understanding of how flora and fauna is adapting to the changing environment.

The Trust is urgently calling for more citizen science recorders. Crucially, the number of Nature’s Calendar recorders is falling year upon year2 and the charity needs to maintain a network of recorders in all parts of the UK to help maintain the scientific integrity of the data. Anyone can become a Nature’s Calendar recorder and make a real and valuable contribution to citizen science and the long-term studies into the impact of climate change on wildlife by visiting www.naturescalendar.org.uk.

The Woodland Trust is the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity championing native woods and trees. It has more than 500,000 members and supporters and its three key aims are: i) to enable the creation of more native woods and places rich in trees ii) to protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future iii) to inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees. Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,200 sites in its care covering approximately 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres). Access to all Woodland Trust sites is free.

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