18 Aug 2022

Protecting biodiversity with cloud technologies (Guest Blog from Oracle)

Author: Andrew Bell, Oracle

Biodiversity loss could trigger an ‘ecological meltdown’, scientists have warned.

Oracle for Research has teamed up with University of Reading researchers to create FruitWatch.org and The World Bee Project, which both utilise cloud technologies to ensure local biodiversity levels are maintained.

There are many examples of how customers are improving their sustainability efforts using Oracle Cloud, from running more energy efficient databases to cutting carbon footprints, but one important use-case is helping experts monitor local environments.

“Oracle’s biggest impact on sustainability is how we engage with our customers and partners. As we work with them on their sustainability initiatives, exchanging ideas and best practices, the leverage we have collectively is enormous.” - Elena Avesani, Head of Global Sustainability at Oracle

FruitWatch

Research by the University of Cambridge has shown that climate change is causing plants in the UK to flower a month earlier on average. Previously, pollinators such as bees, hoverflies, wasps, and moths synchronised with the plants they pollinate, but now that plants are flowering earlier, the yearly emergence of these insects may be too late.

This discrepancy could have devastating consequences. With less pollen and nectar available, insects may go hungry, hurting their reproduction and survival. A lack of pollination also means flowers reproduce less. If this triggers an ecological “cascade effect”, other species in the ecosystem may suffer, and this scenario is alarming.

Fruit trees such as apple, pear, cherry and plum are reliant on insect pollinators to produce fruit, but little is known about their flowering dates in different areas of the UK. This information is desirable as it will help improve our understanding of the impact climate change is having on fruit trees and their ecosystems.

The University of Reading is encouraging citizen scientists to record observations of fruit trees in their gardens, allotments, local parks, and other green spaces at FruitWatch.org. Hosted on Oracle Cloud and compatible with both desktop and mobile devices, the APEX autonomous database application enables participants to record exactly when and how fruit trees are flowering.

The team at Reading is comparing these flowering dates to local pollen records to help them understand whether fruit tree flowering and bee flight dates are in sync across the country, as climate change has caused both the timing of fruit tree flowering and pollinator flight times to change. The website has captured over 4,500 records since February 2022, with data collected from  every county in the UK.

The World Bee Project

Bees play a vital role in pollinating many food crops. Oracle and the University of Reading have teamed up with BeeHero to shed new light on the pollination of fruit crops.

The World Bee Project aims to deliver a better understanding of the delicate balance between farming practices, pollinators, and the local environment, as well as new tools and guidelines to support bee-friendly practices.

The project benefits from the latest academic research from the University of Reading as well as BeeHero’s sensor technology, which is usually used to provide pollination services to commercial farms. Oracle Cloud provides a wide range of analytics and data science capabilities, enabling collaborative research across these teams. The project requires both traditional on-site survey data, which is collected manually across the UK, as well as large volumes of IoT sensor data, which is automatically captured every 15 minutes. The sensor data includes hive temperature, humidity and in-hive acoustics, as well as data related to more than half a million trips the bees make every day. The project also collects hourly third-party weather data as well as satellite images.

Once the data has been processed by BeeHero, it is transferred into an autonomous database in the Oracle Cloud, which uses analytics tools including AI and data visualisation. This provides researchers at the University of Reading with new insights into the bees and their journeys from their hives to the different crops they pollinate. The goal for this collaborative research project will help the global agricultural community to better understand pollinators and the vital role they play in pollination.

Are you and your team of researchers passionate about a specific area of environmental research? Find out how to accelerate your research on OCI and create the discoveries that drive sustainability.


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