An Oracle for Research project led by PhD students at the University of Reading will be featured at COP27 as part of an exhibit with the Walker Institute, the University of Reading’s Interdisciplinary Climate Research Centre. Born out of research that found trees across the UK are flowering earlier than ever before, PhD students Chris Wyver and Laura Reeves, along with citizen scientists, have been tracking data from fruit trees, pollinators, and pests to see how their interactions are being impacted by climate change.
Their research examines the phenology of each individual fruit tree, pollinator or pest, the interaction between them, and how overtime that is shifting. For example, blossom dates of apple trees or pear trees, emergence dates of bumblebees and pests, and how these interactions advance in response to warming climates. This new research builds on an earlier project with Oracle for Research, FruitWatch.org, a successful citizen-science initiative that enables mainland UK citizens to report when and how well their fruit trees are flowering.
Making data come to life
To make sense of their data – which includes 60 years of information – the researchers tapped into Oracle APEX on Autonomous Database to process the data into a new visually interactive Phenology application. The data shows how sensitive the interactions between fruit trees, pollinators, and pests are to climate change through interactive charts and graphs highlighting insights. For example, as temperatures increase there is a gap between when trees are flowering and the pollinators are present to do their magic.
“Over the past 60 years, pear flowering has gotten 11 ½ days earlier, with future climate scenarios predicting it could shift to 18 days earlier,” said Reeves. “The question is will pest and pollinators shift too, or will there be a growing gap.”
While a gap sounds like a small problem, disrupting the timing of when trees flower could lead to lower levels of pollination, causing a cascading effect on countless species with a devastating impact across the ecosystem.
“Without pollination, we risk a severe reduction in the quality and quantity of fruit crops,” said Wyver. “A reduction in pollen and nectar would impact insects’ survival, and a lack of pollination means flowers reproduce less. As everything is connected, this would cause a negative, cascading impact across the ecosystem.”
Tapping into citizen scientists
As with any research project, data is the lifeblood, and the more, the better. That’s something Wyver and Reeves know is crucial for their ongoing project, and they voice a huge debt of gratitude to the UK’s budding citizen scientists.
“An average citizen can be hugely impactful to inform scientists on how the natural world is responding to climate change,” said Wyver. “With technologies like Oracle offers, we can tap into citizen scientists to greatly expand our data, collection, and understanding of our world.”
Wyver and Reeves hope their new application and FruitWatch.org will go a long way in raising the awareness and engagement of citizen scientists for collaboration. Working with Oracle for Research, they are engaging citizens to help understand the relationships between fruit trees, pollinators, and pest to safeguard production into the future.
On display at COP27
The new Phenology application will be featured at COP27 as part of an exhibit with the Walker Institute, the University of Reading’s Interdisciplinary Climate Research Centre. The application will also be available online. Wyver and Reeves hope their application and insights derived help increase knowledge around the importance of pollination and pest patterns into larger sustainability issues.
“There are more than 200 different species of bees across the UK, and while they might look identical, they have massively different phenological responses to climate change,” said Wyver. “That’s not something most people know, but it’s really fascinating and important. We’re hopeful our research and application will help raise awareness around these key issues.”
COP27 is the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference and will be held from 6 to 18 November 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. COP is the supreme decision-making forum of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), bringing signatory governments together once a year to discuss and agree how to jointly address climate change and its impacts.
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