news-22 may 2023 - written by:Marieke Karssen

Spring had a slow start, but now it's really here. And so nature is exploding. A perfect time to measure the biodiversity of the herb layer in your food forest and thus tell science how food forests behave at this point.

Take part in the 2023 biodiversity survey

Every year we invite all food forest owners in the Netherlands to measure the biodiversity of the herb layer of their food forest in spring. We've been doing this since 2020, when we developed tools with our "Measure your food forest harvest" project that allow everyone to monitor their food forest themselves, at no great cost. More and more food forests are participating. And you too can monitor your food forest very easily and thus contribute to science.

It works very simply. You pick one central tree per acre of food forest and measure a 10-meter circle around it with a rope. That's your tree-measuring plot from now on. Every year and every ecological test again. You can measure the following on

  • Biodiversity, every year in May/June/July, by tree plot
  • Above-ground CO2 storage in trees, every 5 years, per tree plot
  • Mineral soil composition, once and perhaps to be repeated after 10 years or so, per tree plot
  • Soil animals, every October, by tree plot
  • Economy, every year in retrospect, over your entire food forest

So, every year you return to the same plot and re-measure what you see in terms of biodiversity in the herb layer. The nice thing is that you can keep all those results together in your food forest project and compare them to other food forests.

Marieke now has a food forest of her own and shows what she encounters in this video. The quality is not great everywhere, but fortunately the detail shots are well done. And you can see well what kind of dilemmas you can encounter.

Why should you participate in this study?

Measure Your Food Forest Harvest, does not stand alone. It is one of the four pillars of -particularly the biodiversity research of the WUR. You could say that each pillar investigates a smaller and smaller place more and more intensively, but because the scientists within those pillars work well together, they do use the same research methods as much as possible.

That also makes Food from the Woods' simple self-do citizen science or Citizen Science research relevant. The research method has been validated: we tested in 2021 whether well-trained students and food forest owners came up with the same results, and it turned out to be so. So, if you follow the manual, anyone can do this research technically well. The more complex studies use the same method, but do it in far fewer places. So, how does science get data on clay soil in Zeeland, loess soil in Limburg, blowing sand from Twente or acid clay in France? Exactly. through all of us together!

In other words, there is no other research that collects biodiversity data internationally from -potentially- every food forest in the world.

This year the WUR has also received budget to bring these four pillars in the field of biodiversity measurements even closer together and of course we are also participating in that. So yes ... as citizens, let's start overwhelming the professionals with our various biodiversities.

We wish everyone lots of fun this year. It takes no time at all and you learn an awful lot about who likes to live on your land.

It works super simple: