Great Fuel Moisture Survey

Are you able to spare a small amount of your time one day in the spring of 2023 to collect samples of heather (Calluna vulgaris) in your local heathlands and peatlands to support research working towards the development of a UK fire danger rating system? If so, then please see further details below.

The UK routinely experiences wildfires, typically in spring and mid/late summer, though winter wildfires do occur. In recent years, large-scale wildfire events in the UK have led to heightened concern in their behaviour and impacts.

As part of a £2.4 M projected funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council, we are addressing the concern posed by such wildfires. The project aims to establish and test the scientific underpinning and key components required to build an effective, tailored UK fire danger rating system.

Wildfire occurrence is strongly dependent on vegetation moisture, which is dependent on weather, species, seasonality, soil, among other controls. However, there is limited information about how the moisture of these fuels varies in time and space in the UK.

As part of this work, we have been monitoring a fuel moisture network across the country, measuring vegetation moisture since the start of 2021. We are aiming to supplement this continuous monitoring with a citizen science led survey of heather moisture content in a dry period in the spring of 2023.

We invite you to take part in your local heathlands and peatlands by collecting and posting heather (Calluna vulgaris) clippings to the University of Birmingham to build a snapshot of fuel moisture across the country. To volunteer, please provide your information here.

Samplers will be selected from those volunteers based on their identified sampling locations (geographical spread and sampling permissions) and provided by post with the fuel moisture sampling kits. Videos and further information on how to sample will also be provided.

Sampling tins used to collect heather, that are sealed and sent to the University of Birmingham.

During a given dry period in the spring of 2023 we will ask you to go to your selected areas and collect samples of live heather canopies. Each sample is small in nature (see picture for reference) and collected across an area, across multiple plants. Samples can be taken in close proximity to access points i.e., footpaths. Each individual sampler will collect approximately 10 tins in their wider region. Samples will be posted back to the University of Birmingham for weighing and analysis.

The data will be analysed and we will share with you the key project messages and outcomes. The results from the project will be published within academic research papers and presented at conferences.

If you would like any further details with regards to the project, the sampling planned, or the results from the project then please contact us at