A new nature research project called Fruitwatch is mobilising citizen scientists to monitor when fruit trees bloom this spring. The Reading University researchers want to see whether climate change is causing trees to flower earlier than when insect pollinators are most active. If this is happening, there are serious implications for common tree species like apple, pear, cherry and plum, which all rely on insect pollination to produce their fruit. It could also harm insect populations. Citizen science schemes like Fruitwatch are a fantastic gateway for children into the world of nature, helping them appreciate and value what the world around us provides. Life-Based Learning prioritises young people learning about the environmental challenges we face and involves encouraging and empowering them to take practical action to promote sustainability and help make a difference.
The flowering dates of fruit trees and pollinator activity are both triggered by warmer temperatures, and warmer conditions earlier in the year are a feature of climate change. The Fruitwatch project, led by the University of Reading, aims to gather data on the timing of fruit tree flowering all over the UK by mobilising citizen scientists to snap photos and submit notes online this spring.
Information submitted on the Fruitwatch website will be uploaded onto an interactive map, providing a clearer picture of how climate change is affecting flowering times compared to pollinator activity across the UK, as well as how it varies between different regions.
Users are asked to record the type of tree, its location, and the stage of flowering, as well as submitting photos.
We need members of the public to go out into gardens, allotments, orchards or parks and tell us what they see.Chris Wyver, University of Reading PhD researcher, Fruitwatch project leader
We want as many eyes on as many trees as possible to tell us if climate change really is having an impact on fruit tree pollination. If it is, then action will be required to prevent a potentially significant impact on fruit production.
Pollinators and fruit trees falling out of sync could mean supply issues, and more expensive and lower-quality fruit. Pollinators do an incredible job for the planet, and if insects are unable to pollinate fruit trees then something else will have to – potentially humans.
The launch of Fruitwatch ties in neatly with the approach of the National Trust’s #BlossomWatch day on 23 April, when the public is encouraged to share pictures of beautiful blossom on social media. As the National Trust says on its website, “[i]n an ever-changing world, nature will always be a source of comfort for many of us.”
Our recent short series of linked blogs (see the links below) explored a key challenge ahead as governments and other decision-makers seek ways to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change in years to come: how to influence lifestyle choices so that people live more sustainably. It concluded by arguing that there are no simple solutions but that education must be central to any long-term strategy. Young people, we said, are key to a greener future.
The concept of Life-Based Learning developed as a response to the urgent challenges we face. Nature, the environment, the animal kingdom, the physical world — in short, humankind’s relationship with and appreciation of the world around us — would be a central focus of a truly life-based approach to learning.
In blogs like Immersing children in nature from a young age is a massive win-win we refer to the twin benefits — educational and health — of putting nature at the very heart of children’s lives, regardless of whether they live in the middle of the countryside or the middle of a city.
In our blog Agency and empowerment will help counter fatalism and climate anxiety, we wrote about the positive impact on mental wellbeing of getting involved in helping to bring about change for the better. Our blogs regularly highlight activities, initiatives and campaigns that individuals, families, schools and communities can take part in to help improve the environment and build a sustainable future.
FruitWatch is a relatively simple but positive initiative that we can all take part in — including schools and individual families — to raise awareness, to make a difference, and to help safeguard the future.
…LBL is about agency and empowerment — giving young people the knowledge, knowhow and skills to lead healthy, sustainable and happy lives, able as individuals and collectively to tackle the many challenges that blight our world.
Image at the head of this article is by Jenny Johansson from Pixabay.