Mitigating biodiversity loss through improved hive management
In this blog we explore key challenges to overcoming biodiversity loss, and how supporting beekeepers through a digital hive management app offers a solution.
The Convention on Biological Diversity defines biodiversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including…diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.” While many climate-mitigation policies and technologies treat biodiversity loss, global warming, and human rights as independent of each other, they are not.
Disruption in one system disrupts the other systems to which they are connected. For example, the overapplication of agricultural chemicals that support a monocrop system of food production results in habitat loss for pollinators; habitat loss for pollinators results in pollinator declines, and pollinator declines result in crop loss and food insecurity for us all.
Challenge 1: Building public awareness & action
Part of the difficulty in communicating the urgency around biodiversity loss—and, importantly, what individuals and organizations can do to mitigate these losses—is public skepticism. For decades, government actors, leaders, and corporate interests have successfully deferred significant changes of practice due to a lack of “compelling evidence” or scientific consensus.
The problem with this approach (called the precautionary principle) to climate-related policies and practices is that by the time there is overwhelming evidence and scientific consensus, the climate threat is so big or the damage so extensive, that it’s nearly impossible to reverse or avert, leaving mitigation as the only viable option. Regrettably, this is our current reality.
The rate of decline in global biodiversity is unprecedented and accelerating. More than one-third of the world’s land surfaces and nearly three-quarters of the earth’s freshwater resources are now devoted to livestock and crop production, which contributes to widespread use of pesticides and herbicides. Because human and nonhuman species and ecosystems are interdependent, the overapplication of pesticides resulting in habitat loss for pollinator populations also results in loss of human food crops.
Challenge 2: Scale
The second reason that biodiversity threats are difficult to overcome is because of scale. As mentioned earlier, decades of inaction have led to problems of scale that are not easily overcome. The climate crisis is indeed at a crisis point, as every Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has found in the last decade, but the sheer scope of the problem often leaves individuals and organizations feeling as though their contributions don’t really matter. Evidence from the most recent IPCC report suggests however, that isn’t true—individual action can make a difference.
The AI-Driven Climate-Smart Beekeeping for Women (AID-CSB) Environmental Health for Human Rights project helps support individual beekeepers in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia through hive management support. When beekeepers inspect their hives, they use the Beekeeper’s Companion App to report any bee stressors (e.g. pests). To better equip beekeepers to address these challenges and ensure that local bee health symptoms are captured, the project will be conducting prototype tests with beekeepers to localize a new Symptom Checker feature, which makes it easier to identify, document, and treat honeybee symptoms. In doing so, the project supports healthy honeybees and the pollination services they provide; critical to supporting biodiverse ecosystems.
AID-CSB also helps build the evidence base and awareness around pollinator health by collecting data from beekeepers on the health of their colonies. For the first time, real-time data will be available to trusted extension workers and researchers to better understand the situation of bee health across Uzbekistan and Ethiopia. Such data enables further analysis, to compare environmental factors like weather and pesticide use with bee health symptoms recorded by beekeepers. Workshops will be held with key government stakeholders to present project findings and raise awareness on the interconnectedness of the linkages between beekeeper activities and environmental health; critical for supporting our biodiverse ecosystems.