With governments being pushed to declare Biodiversity Emergency after recent UN warnings, pollinators  (birds, bees, ants etc) have been identified as essential to healthy and functioning ecosystems, their extinction could cause massive food shortages and possible societal breakdown, their role in protecting areas for biodiversity to flourish is now critical for human wellbeing (TEEB, 2010). Participatory processes to ensure natural pollination include citizen science approaches in projects based around nature-based solutions (NBS).
This page is part of an ongoing, open-ended online collaborative database, which collects relevant approaches that can be used by city-makers to tackle unsustainability and injustice in cities. It is based mainly on knowledge generated in EU-funded projects and touches on fast changing fields. As such, this page makes no claims of authoritative completeness and welcomes your suggestions.
General introduction to approach
Participatory pollination is a citizen science approach of the ProGIreg project that sees the creation of Living Labs to involve local citizens to create, monitor and promote awareness of pollinator-friendly spaces. ProGIreg (Productive Green Infrastructure for post-industrial urban regeneration) began in 2018 and is active in urban areas in 8 different cities that face the challenge of post-industrial regeneration. ProGIreg have 8 types of nature-based solutions (NBS), 1 of which relates to Participatory pollination. Their “Pollinator biodiversity” NBS complements and links all other greening actions since pollinators are essential to a healthy and functioning ecosystem. To make urban areas more pollinator-friendly, cities can reduce pesticide usage and increase the size of green spaces and plant species diversity. Also green networks and corridors help prevent in-breeding of isolated populations, which can lead to species extinction. Monitoring the variety and amounts of bees and butterflies is a good way of assessing the pollinator-friendliness of a city, as outlined in recent ICLEI video with proGIreg’s pollinators expert, Professor Simona Bonelli from the University of Turin.
Shapes, sizes and applications
ProGIreg is active in urban areas that lack quality green spaces and suffer from social and economic disadvantages, inequality and related crime and security problems. Living Labs have been created in post-industrial districts in four front-runner cities, to develop, test and implement NBS. 4 follower cities will closely follow the progress and engage in city-to-city exchange to replicate NBS locally. This specific approach is at an initial stage, beginning June 2018, and will be tested in Living Labs in 2 of the 4 front-runner cities (Dortmund & Turin) and 1 of the 4 follower cities (Cascais, Portugal). The 3 areas differ in size: The Dortmund Living Lab is 215 ha, is situated about 2 km west of downtown Dortmund and includes the Emscher River. At its longest north-south extension, it is 4.8 km long, at its broadest extension in the northern part it is 1.25 km wide, at its most narrow section it is only 40 m wide. The Turin Living Lab area is the post-industrial “Mirafiori Sud” district (34,659 inhabitants on 11.5 km2) which is located along the river Sangone. The Cascais Living Lab Regeneration Area comprises part of the localities Tires and Zambujal in São Domingos de Rana, spanning about 0.42 km².
Relation to UrbanA themes: Cities, sustainability, and justice
The Participatory pollination approach is very urban focused and explicitly addresses justice by its selection of area of activity and addresses a host of sustainability issues. To make urban areas more pollinator-friendly, cities can reduce pesticide usage and increase the size of green spaces and plant species diversity. Also green networks and corridors help prevent in-breeding of isolated populations, which can lead to species extinction. Three areas are chosen for this approach, all suffering from social and economic disadvantages, inequality and related crime and security problems. These areas often lack quality green spaces, have a negative impact on human health and wellbeing and are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Regarding scale and type of areas, in Dortmund the approach includes a former-landfill site a neighbouring permaculture orchard, in Turin it includes a number of mental health spaces across the city. In the 1 follower city, Cascais, some local schools and community spaces are involved. ProGIreg’s citizen science approach involves joining with local citizens to create, monitor and promote awareness of the pollinator-friendly spaces. Assessing socio-cultural inclusiveness, ProGIreg outline in their document “Monitoring and Assess-ment Plan (Deliverable 4.1 - Link 2): In developing greener cities, social inclusiveness – defined as the cumulative social benefits created and supported by Green Infrastructure and NBS in cities – is derived through a balanced approach that combines both social (e.g., benefits to people) and inclusivity (e.g., equal accessibility to the benefit) impacts. The approach also seeks to generate direct economic benefits of NBS, where NBS will end up having a new productive activity after implementation, i.e. selling products and services produced by the new infrastructure or producing new income streams that previously did not exist, In regard to this approach, this would mean the sale of honey produced in NBS spaces.
The approach’s environmental benefits are both at global and local scale, focusing on urban green and blue spaces of all typologies, the so-called Green and Blue Infrastructures. At global scale, there are direct and indirect interactions with the carbon biogeochemical cycle. GI directly interacts with the carbon cycle because its elements remove carbon dioxide (CO2) form the atmosphere, while, thanks to temperature regulation, reduce energy demands and the associated carbon emission. Thanks to a proper planning, conservation and management of green infrastructure, cities can play an important role for biodiversity. This approach identifies soil regeneration and aquaponics as contributions to solve the issues related to soil consumption and use of natural resources in urban environments, which are actually increasing due to the global urbanisation process. The approach attempts to link sustainability and justice to a high degree, seeing NBS as having huge potential to address technical, social and economic challenges and to make urban transformation work with and for citizens.
Narrative of change
Acknowledging the need to create or protect areas, including in cities, for biodiversity to flourish is now critical for human wellbeing, this approach deals with a series of problems, principally that of maintaining or improving urban biodiversity through the creation of Participatory pollination projects in 3 European cities. This is one specific approach of an interconnected system of NBS being implemented in 8 cities. Recognizing that many post-industrial urban areas suffer from social and economic disadvantages, inequality and related crime and security problems, it seeks to engage local communities in a citizen science process, as part of a process to facilitate improved levels of citizen engagement. ProGIreg’s citizen science approach involves joining with local citizens to create, monitor and promote awareness of the pollinator-friendly spaces, as part of a wider strategy to increase citizen participation in construction of NBS in problematic urban areas through Living Labs that are citizen-owned and co-developed by state, market and civil society stakeholders. Future uses of such NBS include possible economic activity, such as selling honey.
This approach is at initial stages, so time will see if the high hoped for transformative potential is realised. Acting in currently problematic post-industrial urban areas, It seeks to engage and facilitate citizens to become involved in the urban regeneration of nature zones in their localities, to develop community dynamics to take collective ownership for these areas and in some instances bring about a situation where these NBS offer new economic opportunities. While this could be mere tokenist participation, such community engagement could lead to organized local communities having greater say in future scenarios for their territories.
This approach seeks to improve urban biodiversity through the creation of participatory pollination projects in 3 European cities. The project is at initial stage, being tested since 2018 in Living Labs in 2 of the 4 front-runner cities (Dortmund & Turin) and 1 of the 4 follower cities (Cascais, Portugal).
- Dortmund, Germany: Pollinator-friendly plants will be introduced to the open slopes of the former-landfill site Deusenberg and the neighbouring permaculture orchard. Local citizens will help monitoring numbers and species variety.
- Turin, Italy: Turin will take a socially inclusive and bottom-up approach by working with doctors and patients of mental health centres to promote pollinator-friendly spaces across the Living Lab.
- Cascais, Portugal: By running workshops for schools and the local community, Cascais will increase awareness of the importance of pollinators in the local ecosystem, encourage beekeeping and the reduction of pesticide-use.
- O'Sullivan, K. (2019). Government must declare ‘climate and biodiversity’ emergency. Irish Times. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/government-must-declare-climate-and-biodiversity-emergency-1.3882649
- Jonathan Watts, J. (2019). Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth's natural life. Guardian, UK. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/06/human-society-under-urgent-threat-loss-earth-natural-life-un-report
- Pollinator on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollinator
- Grossman E. (2013). Declining Bee Populations Pose a Threat to Global Agriculture. Published at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. https://e360.yale.edu/features/declining_bee_populations_pose_a_threat_to_global_agriculture
- TEEB (2010), The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity Ecological and Economic Foundations. Edited by Pushpam Kumar. Earthscan, London and Washington http://www.teebweb.org/our-publications/teeb-study-reports/ecological-and-economic-foundations/
- (VIDEO) Professor Simona Bonelli: How to attract more butterflies and bees to your city https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1YsEUn6oos
- ProGIreg Deliverable 4.1: Monitoring and Assessment Plan by CNR, pg 15: Direct economic and labour impacts of the implemented NBS http://www.progireg.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/Deliverables/D4.1_proGIreg_CNR_2019_03_29.pdf
- ProGIreg Deliverable 4.1: Monitoring and Assessment Plan by CNR, pg 14 http://www.progireg.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/Deliverables/D4.1_proGIreg_CNR_2019_03_29.pdf
- Cascais Ambiente. (2019) Cascais Ambiente participa em projeto europeu para transformar áreas pós-industriais em centros verdes. (Portuguese only) https://ambiente.cascais.pt/pt/noticias/cascais-ambiente-participa-projeto-europeu-transformar-areas-pos-industriais-centros-verdes