Creating bee-friendly cities: How can we bring pollinators back to our urban areas?

Pollinators like bees are the health check of our ecosystem. As such, their decline in recent years is alarming for numerous reasons. They are a significant component of biodiversity and essential for the survival of 84% of our crop species. To halt their decline it is therefore of great importance that, in highly urbanised Europe, cities implement pollinator friendly measures.

During this webinar, we had a closer look at what Brussels (BE) and Utrecht (NL) are doing to support pollinators in returning and even thriving in cities. In particular, we looked at the importance of welcoming wild bees back into our towns. The webinar addressed the challenges in choosing the right plants and nesting materials for these pollinators, as well as the importance of well-functional ecological infrastructure in cities, for healthy ecosystems and the well-being of urban dwellers.

This webinar was part of the LIFE UrbanGreeningPlans project. An innovative project that wants to help urban areas bring nature back. As part of the new EU Biodiversity Strategy, European cities with over 20.000 inhabitants are called upon to create Urban Greening Plans to support biodiversity and mitigate climate change. This LIFE preparatory project aims to address the problems cities face in the creation of these plans.

Etienne Aulotte, Head of the Nature & Agriculture Department at Environnement Brussels, then helped set the scene and describe the situation in Brussels. The cities’ Pollinator Strategy was inspired by the EU Pollinators Initiative (link below). It is based on the three pillars of “knowing”, “awareness” and “act”. Whilst developing the Strategy, Brussels Environnement soon realised that it should not be a separate entity, but a corner stone in various regional strategies like the Pesticides Programme, the Nature Plan and the Good Food Strategy.

Download the presentation “Creating bee-friendly cities. Setting the scene”

Prof. Nicolas J. Vereecken, Université libre de Bruxelles, followed up with why it is essential to have a pollinator’s perspective when developing ecological infrastructures. He started by mapping out the numerous threats pollinators face. Then, he bottomed out why we are focussing on “the wrong bee”. Both media and the public tend to focus just on the honey bee, which is only one of the 2000 species in Europe and one of the least threatened. His research showed that in Brussels alone there are 210 species of bees. He finished his presentation by giving inputs on how Brussels is working on providing spaces to wild bees and the results of the university’s research on pollen and what this says about our pollinators.

Download the presentation “Urban greening in Europe: a pollinators’ perspective is urgently needed to develop functional ecological infrastructures”

Gitty Korsuize urban ecologist at the Municipality of Utrecht, closed the webinar by explaining how Utrecht became the bee-friendliest municipality in The Netherlands.They noticed that there were parts of the city were life expectancy was below average and therefore took measures to make the city greener to help increase the health of people. There were a number of initiatives that also helped pollinators in the city. For example, Utrecht stopped using pesticides over 25 years ago, but also newer innovations like bee hotels, bee-friendly bus stops and walls and less mowing has increasingly helped urban pollinators.

Further resources

During the event participants shared interesting links and further reading, you can find them here:

Download the presentation “Creating a bee-friendly city of Utrecht”.

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