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Splendour falls – late but technicolour autumn predicted

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The flaming shades of trees in autumn mark nature’s last hurrah before the coming of winter.The Woodland Trust, the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity, expects this autumn to be more  colourful than ever, given the favourable weather conditions, and predicts the best crop of fruit in a decade too.

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Data gathered by volunteers  on first sightings of leaf tinting in species such as ash, elder, oak and horse chestnut suggest that autumn has now arrived -two weeks later than usual  and ripe berry recordings show that it brings with it abundant fruit, particularly on brambles, rowans and elders.

This bounty is good news for wildlife which should be much better placed to survive the winter this year -particularly the hibernating species that need to build up fat reserves.

The Trust is encouraging more members of the public to become “citizen scientists” and contribute to long term studies into the effect of climate change by recording their observations on the Trust’s “Nature Calendar”.

“We need the public to record their autumn sightings. Without this information we would have much less of an idea of how our changing seasons impact on our flora and fauna,” said Dr Kate Lewthwaite , Nature Calendar’s Project Manager.

And the explanation for the colour? Green fades to yellow as a result of low temperatures destroying chlorophyll –the green pigment in leaf cells -revealing carotene, the yellow pigment. The relatively dry, bright and sunny conditions of the last month should lead to greater sugar concentration and increased production of anthocyanin, the red/purple pigment  and consequently to more intensely red leaves.

If you would like to contribute your autumn data to the Nature Calendar go to: www.naturescalendar.org.uk

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