14 Aug 2023

Climate change threatens wild blueberries in Norway


In English, it would be: "Norwegian researchers are curious about how climate change will affect wild blueberry seasons in the coming years. For several years, ecologists have been monitoring a small area along the Sognefjord, near Kaupanger. Here, they study the growth of blueberries and cranberries in detail.

Researchers conduct experiments where they warm some areas with small greenhouses and compare these areas with naturally unheated ones. "We count flowers, fruits, and bees," explains researcher Stein Joar Hegland, an ecologist at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.

The researchers examine areas at different altitudes, and the greenhouses they use are located at 100, 500, and 900 meters above sea level, respectively. This is to study how warming in different areas affects pollination and the number of fruits produced.

"So far, we haven't collected enough data to draw conclusions. But we know from research and experience that climate has a significant impact on small fruit production," says Hegland.

Stein Joar Hegland, ecologo dell'Università di Scienze Applicate della Norvegia Occidentale.
Stein Joar Hegland, ecologist at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.

This is illustrated, for example, by a study conducted in Maine, United States, where researchers analyzed data from 40 years ago. The findings showed that the temperature increase had made the areas where wild blueberry plants grow much drier.

According to the researchers interviewed by the New York Post, less water translates to a lower quantity of blueberries produced. Maine is the only area in the United States with commercial producers of wild blueberries.

Preliminary results from Sognefjord also indicate that warmer weather has a negative impact on blueberry plant growth. "It is a species adapted to our northern ecosystems. With warmer weather, it could become too hot for blueberries in low-lying areas," says Hegland.

Ricerca effettuata sui mirtilli selvatici in un'area lungo il Sognefjord, vicino a Kaupanger, in cui i ricercatori utilizzano piccole serre per riscaldare piccole aree in cui crescono di mirtilli selvatici per monitorarne la crescita.

Based on the experiments, it appears that cranberries are less affected by climate change compared to blueberries, regardless of the altitude they grow at, according to the research.

"In the mountains, warming has a different effect. There, warming can be more positive for blueberry plants. But regardless, the climate is much more variable, so blueberry production can naturally vary greatly from year to year," he says.

Researchers are curious about how blueberries will fare in the plains of central-eastern Norway due to climate warming. For now, however, they prefer not to make definitive statements about it.

Source: Sciencenorway

Photo: Western Norway University of Applied Sciences – HVL, Sciencenorway

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