When Mother Nature lends a helping hand

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BeeOmonitoring improves Spadel’s water catchment areas

To help us monitor, protect and improve biodiversity in our water catchment areas we work closely together with BeeOdiversity. In our third article on the topic of biodiversity, BeeOdiversity Founder Michaël van Custem explains how the humble honeybee creates value for humanity, the environment and our economy all at the same time.

“Biodiversity is essential to life on earth,” says Michaël. “All species rely on it, including humans. We rely on our planet’s resources for food, medicine, even our own wellbeing. If we don’t take care of biodiversity, we’re not taking care of ourselves.”

Connecting with nature is incredibly important to our mental health and personal wellbeing, as has been painfully highlighted by the current pandemic. Never before have we spent so much time at home and our gardens have probably never been looked after quite so lovingly. But are we doing well?

“People mistakenly destroy biodiversity to create value, whilst in the long term you can create much more value by increasing biodiversity. So many economical activities impact our environment: agriculture, real estate… how we see our cities and how we design things has a major impact on biodiversity. Instead of all those perfectly manicured lawns, our planet would fare much better if we let plants grow wild. Thankfully, municipalities and real estate developers are becoming more aware of this and are actively rethinking what urban spaces should look like.”

Michael Van Cutsem – CEO BeeOdiversity

BeeOdiversity aims to create value whilst preserving biodiversity. Founded in 2013, the organisation helps corporates and public entities integrate biodiversity into their activities on both a strategic and executive level. “Our main focal points are the preservation of biodiversity and reducing pollution through nature based solutions,” explains Michaël. Working with all kinds of industries and sectors, BeeOdiversity helps municipalities, real estate developers, the agri-food sector, industrials and corporates alike protect their natural resources.

“Like miniature drones, our bees travel far and wide to collect billions of samples for scientific analysis.”

Spadel is a great example of how bees deliver unrivalled value. One of the main concerns for any water company is that water catchment areas might be harmed by pesticides, nitrates or other pollutants that can seep through into the groundwater. But because the catchment areas are so vast, it is difficult to monitor them properly. Bees, on the other hand, travel much farther and deeper into the surrounding countryside and – like miniature drones – collect billions of pollen samples to feed themselves. By analysing the pollen they bring to their hives we can see exactly what kind of pollutants there might be, as well as which plant species grow in the area. Pollen even shows us whether the area might benefit from the introduction of other plant species that flower at different times of the year to further strengthen the ecosystem.”

And it’s not just Spadel that has found its way to BeeOdiversity. The City of Knokke-Heist (Belgium) is another happy client that has discovered scientific environmental monitoring says Michaël. “BeeOmonitoring linked heavy metals to, among other, the port and pesticides to certain public spaces and local farming activities. Armed with this information, the city has changed its care of public parks and green spaces and has been working closely with BeeOdiversity and farmers to reduce the use of pesticides and introduce more sustainable farming methods. They’re also working hard to reduce harmful emissions in and around the city.”

In less than three years, local biodiversity has increased fourfold and at certain times throughout the year plant biodiversity is more than twice the national average. All this has led to a very healthy population of both wild and honey bees. Knokke-Heist shares the results with its residents every year, and citizens have been introducing a wider range of plants into their gardens to help increase biodiversity even further.

“Because reducing pollution and restoring biodiversity is in all our interest, we draw on the brilliance of Mother Nature, on technological innovation and on the involvement of all the players in a project.”

“It’s a matter of assessing the state of the local environment, advising on natural solutions to rebalance the ecosystem and then helping implement this advice,” Michaël continues. “We also make sure to involve local stakeholders so they can act on their own level. In France for example, there are a lot of vineyards around the Carola and Wattwiller catchment areas. By communicating our findings with the farmers, the local research institute and local administration we have been able to contribute to improving the local environment and biodiversity. From introducing new plants and trees to letting wildflowers grow instead of mowing them, a lot has been done based on our recommendations across all the Spadel sites.”

“In fact, we’re exceptionally proud of for the partnership we have with Spadel. The level of commitment and engagement with our project is unique and it’s been great growing alongside them. Since we first started working together in Spa in 2014 – I think they were even our very first corporate client for the biomonitoring aspect – our BeeOmonitoring project has been introduced across all their sites. To have the support of a company like Spadel and for them to believe in such an innovative concept shows how committed they are to taking care of our planet. A commitment that has led to numerous awards over the years, including “the Belgische Energie- en Milieuprijs / Prix Belge de l’énergie et de l’environnement” for the BeeSpa project in 2015. This year Devin won the first place in the category "Green Initiative" in the “Greenest Companies in Bulgaria" competition.

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