Biodiversity Regeneration: Bodemzicht’s Story Told by Space Data

 Biodiversity Regeneration: Bodemzicht’s Story Told by Space Data

Biodiversity is crucial for healthy ecosystems, supporting everything from bacteria to whales and providing resources vital for human well-being and sustainable development. Protecting it and transitioning from harmful economic activities to practices promoting ecological regeneration is essential for the planet’s long-term health. Despite awareness efforts, activities like logging, mining, and deforestation persist, threatening ecosystems already stressed by climate change. To combat this, actions like protecting natural areas, sustainable resource management, and environmental education are crucial.

Regenerative Agriculture has been shown to support biodiversity by maintaining or increasing its levels. But what exactly is Regenerative Agriculture? It combines traditional and modern farming techniques focused on improving soil health and preserving biodiversity.

This approach involves minimising soil disturbance, keeping soil covered with plants or organic material to prevent erosion and boost fertility, and diversifying crops. It also includes integrating livestock into the ecosystem, as their grazing promotes natural fertilisation.

One of the well-known farms that practice regenerative agriculture in the Netherlands is Bodemzicht. Anne van Leeuwen and Ricardo Cano Mateo started the regenerative farm Bodemzicht on the Grootstal estate, right next to Nijmegen. They sought to demonstrate that regenerative agriculture grows living soil, captures CO2, and increases biodiversity while making a profit. The farm location has recently moved from its location outside Nijmegen to a new area hosted by the Gemeenschapsboerderij ‘t Gagel Farm (see video below https://youtu.be/ZzD1DqX7tN4?t=49) near Lochem. However, in its relatively short tenure in Nijmegen, Bodemzicht proved to be an excellent example of how regenerative agricultural practices can contribute to increasing biodiversity (see https://www.bodemzicht.nl/), by applying various regenerative practices to achieve its goals, such as: 

  • Direct seeding: To avoid tilling the soil, improve water infiltration, and increase organic matter content. 
  • Cover crops: Helps suppress weeds, improve soil fertility, and prevent erosion; they also provide food and habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators, further enriching biodiversity.
  • Livestock integration: Incorporating chickens and sheep into the cropping system encourages natural fertilisation and weed control. 
Imagen 1
Image taken from https://www.bodemzicht.nl/

Bodemzicht Foundation, the school regenerative farmers, since the end of 2023, is also a zoöp. A zoöp is an organisation whose board includes a representative for the voices and interests of non-human life. A Zoöp actively works toward ecological regeneration in its operational sphere and monitors its developments with various means. 

Due to its special attention to monitoring the biodiversity level, it has been documented that the farm features a variety of plant and animal life, including over 70 different species of birds, over 200 species of insects, and a wide range of small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Due to their spatial and temporal prevalence, Earth Observation data have been proposed (and used) to detect and monitor changes within this farm from the satellite, among other ground observations.

It has been demonstrated that the increase in biodiversity not only benefits the farm’s ecosystem but contributes to the overall health and resilience of the surrounding landscape by providing habitat for pollinators, predators, and other beneficial organisms. Regenerative farming practices like these employed at Bodemzicht can help control pests naturally and promote healthy ecosystems.

Tools for Monitoring Agriculture 

In groundstation.space, previous articles have promoted the use of satellite imagery for crop monitoring. 

https://www.groundstation.space/tag/Agriculture

Highlighting examples of applications for monitoring and controlling the health of different crops, such as

Empowering Agriculture with Satellite Data. Example of Moldova

Enhancing Agricultural Productivity and Monitoring Crop Health Using Remote Sensing: Insights from Sentinel-2 Satellite Data

The implementation of new remote sensing technology methodologies that allow the assessment and monitoring of biodiversity is necessary and already underway. The relatively high spatial resolution and almost weekly revisit time allow plant detection and phenology and open a map to identify more complex environmental processes or patterns. Presently, there are plenty of research publications that focus on collecting ecological data and indicators with the help of remote sensing, leading to understanding how biodiversity is changing over time and space.

Imagen 1
Satellite image of Gemeenschapsboerderij ‘t Gagel Farm (centre of image) taken from Google Earth Pro

Satellite image of Gemeenschapsboerderij ‘t Gagel Farm (center of image) taken from Google Earth Pro

One of the most widely used indices for monitoring vegetation status is the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which is widely used to quantify vegetation health and density using sensor data. It is calculated from data in the red and near-infrared bands of satellite data. This calculation gives us a high correlation with the true state of the soil vegetation.  The NDVI index was calculated for the Gemeenschapsboerderij ‘t Gagel zone using a SENTINEL 2 image, using sensor bands 8 and 4.

Imagen 2

NDVI index calculated on a SENTINEL 2 image, where the polygons (in dark green) refer to the state of greenery and density of the vegetation in Gemeenschapsboerderij ‘t Gagel and surroundings. The processed data correspond to January 27, 2024. The polygons obtained were superimposed on Google Earth Pro. Using band 8 and band 4 of the sensor. It is an easy-to-interpret index where the NDVI will have values between -1 and 1. NDVI values below -1 suggest the presence of water. An area where nothing grows will have an NDVI of zero (-0.1 to 0.1) and will show the presence of rocks, sand, or snow. NDVI will increase in proportion to vegetation growth. While low, positive values between 0.2 to 0.4 represent the presence of shrubs and meadows. An area with dense, healthy vegetation will have an NDVI of 1.

NDVI values of 0.23 were obtained for the area, indicating the presence of shrubs or small vegetation with a good state of greenery and density captured in the satellite image for the date.

Imagen 3

Zoom in to the Gemeenschapsboerderij ‘t Gagel Farm with the calculation of the NDVI index. These technological tools allow us to optimise the time and cost to track crops and thus speed up decision-making for their preservation and maintenance over time, supporting sustainable and sustained agriculture. Along with the generation of thematic mapping, it is possible to have an inventory of the state of growth and health of crops and species over a period, where the farmer will be able to quickly and effectively focus on the attention of those plots that require the attention of fertiliser, water, fertilisers and/or nutrients, guiding them to the areas with problems within the fields. A lot of time and resources can be saved by providing explorers with the exact geolocation of such areas in the field.

Also, the remote sensing technique is very useful in monitoring long-term health development and keeping track of carbon-capturing to compare the effects of different management systems on neighbouring farms. 

Imagen 4
The same area as a false-colour image using the near-infrared, NIR- Red and Green 8-4-3 spectral bands of SENTINEL 2 combined to RGB (Red-Green-Blue) – this image shows vegetation in a red tone, as vegetation reflects most light in the near-infrared.

There are many indices developed by scientists to optimise and promote the generation, development, and maintenance of biodiversity, an example of which is the OPEN ATLAS algorithm repository (see the following link https://www.groundstation.space/open_atlas/) which is supported by groundstation.space to promote the application and use of Earth observation data from sources such as the Copernicus satellite missions for studies, monitoring, control, development of new tools, decision-making, and generation of public policies on environmental issues.

Imagen 4

There is a need to raise awareness of the value of satellite applications, which provide information to policy-makers on the innovation and valorisation of Earth observation technology. Taking care of the planet is not just a matter of politics. All citizens have to preserve and maintain our resources for our benefit and as a legacy for future generations.

Featured image credit: Bodemzicht & ‘t Gagel

Gabriela Quintana Sánchez

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