The strawbAIRies project was first launched by the lab of Environmental and Urban Ecology, directed by prof. Roeland Samson of the University of Antwerp in 2014 under the name AIRbezen (which is a word play on the dialect word for strawberry in Flemish). The aim was - just as it is in this project - to monitor air quality, more specifically traffic related air pollution contained in particulate matter, in the city of Antwerp by using strawberry plants. These strawberry plants were distributed to and treated by volunteering citizens. The project which was designed together with some citizens, became a huge success due to its simplicity, and because participants gained a better insight into the local air quality at their place of living. As such more than 1000 people enthusiastically participated. The project also had a large impact on society and policy-makers and was a first step to get the issue of (urban) air quality higher on the political agenda.
After this first successful citizen science project in Antwerp, more projects followed, as well in smaller villages (AIRbezen Pepingen 2015), but also in cities (AIRbezen BorgerRio 2015), or specifically focused on schools (AIRbezen@school 2015). Campaigns were organized abroad as well, in The Netherlands (AIRbezen Drimmelen NL 2016) and Spain (Vigilantes del Cierzo in Zaragossa 2016). The largest campaign so far was organised at province-level, with more than 10,000 participants (AIRbezen Oost-Vlaanderen 2017). And at the moment an extended AIRbezen-project is running specifically focused on schools (AIRbezen@School 2019-2020).
In the scope of the European BIOVEINS project (BiodivERsA – Horizon2020) we will repeat this groundbreaking citizen science project in a unique trans-European setting. We will monitor traffic-related air quality in urban environments by means of the strawberry plant, distributed to and treated by volunteering citizens. In addition – and new in this project - is that we will assess the pollination success of plants in urban environments in relation to air pollution and the availability of green in the neighbourhood. Therefore we will use the bird’s-foot trefoil next to the strawberry plants.