Doing our part to conserve biodiversity
At OPHARDT Hygiene, we are working to become better environmental stewards and are taking a keen eye toward biodiversity. At our Issum location in the Niederrhein of Germany this year, we’ve made the decision apply a new maintenance program for a field on our grounds.
Small paradise in the middle of the industrial area
What initially began as a seasonal experiment, has developed into a full-blown restoration program in a little field beside our facility. Over the course of the spring, summer, and into the fall, we let wildflowers, grasses, and other herbaceous plants grow as they will, curious as to what would spring up in our 650 m2 field. Two times over the season we introduced grazing sheep to the field to prevent overgrowth and stimulate increased plant biodiversity.
To the untrained eye, the field does not reveal any distinguishing features. Asters, thistles, and wild carrot were among some of the plant species observed colonizing the field. But as the plants continued to grow, so too did the number of visitors.
Recognizing there were a number of different species of insects foraging in the field, we reached out to Mr. Hermann-Josef Windeln of the Geldern-Issum chapter of NABU (German Nature Conservation Union) to help us evaluate the value of the field for native biodiversity.
During his visit, Windeln noted the dry, sandy nature of the soil, which supports a specific community of plants adapted to the soil conditions. As a result, the field will also attract certain specialized insect species.
In the course of his inventory, Windeln observed a species of butterfly, endangered in the Lower Rhine area. With a wingspan of up to nine centimeters, the Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio machaon) is the largest European butterfly species. Though widespread and stable in Europe, regional populations are in decline. In North Rhein-Westphalia, the Swallowtail butterfly is considered an endangered species.
Within the field, a number of plant species were found that support the Swallowtail during its life cycle, including St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), various species of clover (Trifolium ssp.), and viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare). Viper’s bugloss, specifically, is known to be a source of high-quality nectar for butterflies and other pollinator species.
Sheep grazing rounds off the overall concept
According to Windeln, although the field is small in size, it offers high potential for both insect and plant species.
Further conservation measures will have a positive effect on the local ecosystem. Specifically of note, using sheep to maintain the field provides a more sustainable alternative to lawn mowers. While they graze, the sheep also aerate and fertilize the soil, allowing different wildflowers and other desirable species to grow and thrive.
By improving the field in Issum, OPHARDT Hygiene will be able to protect many endangered species in the future and make a local contribution to active species protection.Hermann Josef Windeln, NABU County Council in Kleve
Our hope is that the benefit of the field will be further reaching, supporting the wider community of native plant and animal species. In 2020, we will continue our work to further transform this field and increase its value to plant and animal species.